Port explores Grove Field Airport expansion

Commissioner says plan would help attract corporations

Could expanding the local Grove Field Airport help Camas-Washougal attract corporate leaders? Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner John Spencer thinks it would.

Spencer, a pilot, is leading an effort to promote the possible widening and lengthening of the runway at Grove Field. The local airport is 40 feet wide and 2,600 feet long. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says runways at small airports like Grove should be 60 feet wide and 3,070 feet long.

Spencer says those minimum standards still aren’t big enough for most corporate jets.

“There are some very small jets that could get in and out of Grove, but most need more like 4,200 feet,” he said. “If there is demand for business traffic in the future, this current expansion could set the stage for it, but I wouldn’t anticipate that within the 20-year planning horizon.”

Spencer plans to set up a meeting with the FAA in mid- to late January, to discuss the project, potential timelines and funding. One or more consultants from WHPacific, a Portland-based engineering and environmental firm, and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)’s aviation division would accompany Spencer.

Rainse Anderson, with WHPacific, reviewed the 2005 Airport Layout Plan with local pilots and people who live near Grove Field during a Dec. 7 meeting at the Port. More than a decade ago, the cost of meeting the FAA’s minimum standards was listed at $9.4 million. The FAA would pay for up to 90 percent of the total cost, and WSDOT would cover five percent.

“The Port would be on the hook for the last five percent,” Spencer said. “I figure we have at least five to six years to come up with that money.”

He said Grove Field is the only airport in Clark County with a potential for expansion.

“It is also the only one in the Portland metro region that is out of the floodplain,” Spencer said. “In the case of a major earthquake, Grove could become a vital link for relief supplies.”

He thinks Grove Field is a vital, but underdeveloped part of the local transportation system.

“Right now, it is limited by a substandard runway, lack of an instrument approach and no weather station,” Spencer said. “It has serious safety hazards with trees on one end and a mobile home court on the other end.”

With improvements, the airport can be used for small business travel and small freight operations as well as emergency aircraft fueling Lifeflight, firefighting operations and search and rescue, he added.

During the Dec. 7 meeting, Jenny Stark said she worried that an airport expansion would decrease the value of her house near Grove Field.

Carla Zamora said an airport expansion would lead to increased noise and traffic.

“Right now, it’s a nice, sleepy airport,” she said.