The disappointment was obvious Tuesday night among area pilots, after they heard the Port of Camas-Washougal Commission vote 3-0 to not apply for $10 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to pay for improvements at Grove Field Airport.
After the commissioners’ meeting ended, the pilots gathered in the front lobby of the port office building and scheduled an impromptu meeting of their own at the Adams Street Bar and Grill, in downtown Camas.
“This is a great disappointment,” Dick Martin, a pilot for 43 years, said regarding the commission’s decision to not have Grove Field become an FAA-obligated airport. “It is a nice, quiet airport, but it needs improvement. The runway is relatively narrow.
“If they had a more attractive airport, it could attract maintenance and flight schools,” he added.
Correcting the airport’s design standard deficiencies would involve widening the runway to 60 feet, lengthening the runway to 3,070 feet, clearing obstructions within the airport’s runway safety area and shifting the runway to meet center line/taxiway separation standards. Relocating Delp Road would involve digging a tunnel.
The application and subsequent approval for state and federal funding would have paid for 97.5 percent of the costs.
Prior to making his motion, Commissioner Bill Ward said he recently learned that if any FAA funding were used for the purpose of land acquisition, the obligation to operate the airport would continue in perpetuity.
“This obligation would not be discharged by repaying those funds,” he said. “The port would be locked in. Grove Field borders the urban growth boundary of Camas.”
Ward said it would not be in the best interest of the port to become an FAA-obligated airport.
“It could place the port in unacceptable jeopardy,” he added.
Doug Anderson, a pilot, told commissioners after the vote that they did not turn down general fund money. It was money obtained from sources such as aviation fuel taxes.
“This was an opportunity to get a piece of the pie,” he said. “It will go to other airports now. Taxpayers now have to pay for improvements.”
Grove Field Airport is located at 632 N.E. 267th Ave., in Fern Prairie.
Additional information and comments will be published in the July 26 print edition of the Post-Record.