Valemount Council mulls big airport expansion


by EVAN MATTHEWS

The Village of Valemount is mulling ways to improve its airport in anticipation of VGD resort air-traffic – including nearly doubling the size of the existing runway.

At the May 9 Council meeting, the Economic Development Committee recommended the formation an airport commission, hiring an airport manager, and for the Village to inform the Province of the need to secure land for a potential runway extension.

The upgrades are “based on the interest shown by local pilots and the expected increase in use from the Valemount Glacier Destination Resort,” according to a report written in February by then-CAO Gord Simmons.

Current Village CAO Adam Davey advised Council there is no timeline attached to the recommendations, but rather it’s something Council should be thinking about in its long-term planning.

“We’re already doing some line painting and tree clearing this summer,” says Davey.

Back in March, the Province announced the Valemount Airport would receive $27,000 in funding from the B.C. Air Access Program for airport infrastructure improvements.

“But there is a lot of other tasks coming, and a lot of coordination to be done between the regional district, the Village, the Simpcw First Nation and the Province,” he says.

While Davey says the Village will likely hire an airport manager in the future, the position may not be needed for a number of years. In the meantime, the airport will continue to be managed by the Village’s Public Works, he says.

Council decided to hold off on forming an Airport Commission and securing funds for an airport manager, with the hopes of waiting until after the provincial legislature’s confidence vote when the government names a new Provincial Minister of Transportation.

Valemount Mayor Jeannette Townsend says Valemount needs to work with provincial ministries to acquire more land for the runway extension, as the first step in the process.

The airport is currently a paved runway, roughly 23 metres wide and 1,200 metres long, and the runway strip is partially fenced, according to the report, and there is a small terminal building, runway lighting, and a small fuel facility, too.

The airport is currently classed as a Code 2B non-instrument runway — non-instrument meaning an aircraft must break out of cloud cover at least 500 feet above the airport before final approach, according to Simmons’ report.

The current length of the runway permits only Citations, Beech Craft 1900’s and Twin Otters to land, according to the report, all of which are all smaller aircrafts.

Based on two studies the Village commissioned in 1990 and 2006, respectively, the Village’s plan is to work toward a classification of a Code 3C non-precision instrument runway — non-precision instrument meaning the aircraft must break out of the cloud at least 250 feet above the airport before final approach, according to Simmons’ report.

In order for the Airport to change classifications, the process would involve relocating the existing fence on the north, south and west sides of the runway, clearing and grubbing additional land to the north and south of the existing runway, and clearing trees in the approach area, while ultimately widening and lengthening the runway to 1,800 metres by 30 metres – close to doubling the existing runway size.

Back in March, the Province announced the Valemount Airport would receive $27,000 in funding from the B.C. Air Access Program for airport infrastructure improvements.

The funding is to be used for upcoming tree removal, and runway and taxiway line painting to improve visibility and increase safety for aircraft takeoff and landing, particularly for emergency medevac services, according to the Province.