Sunday, November 03, 2013

Geese, ducks run afoul of Wahoo Municipal Airport (KAHQ), Nebraska

Geese and ducks from nearby Lake Wanahoo are creating a potential air safety hazard at the Wahoo Municipal Airport. 

No collisions have been reported, but the Wahoo Airport Authority is taking steps to ensure the safety of pilots who fly in and out of the small airport on the northeast edge of Wahoo in Saunders County.

"I would consider it a lot more than a nuisance," said Airport Authority Chairman Pat Burke, who has seen gaggles of geese on the north and south ends of the runway.

The migratory birds come from Lake Wanahoo, a 640-acre reservoir that opened in April 2012 and is just west of the airport. For some reason geese prefer the well-mowed, grassy areas near the runways.

"With an airport, the grass is kept down. That's where they like it," Burke said.

John Miyoshi, general manager of the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District which developed the lake along with the City of Wahoo and Saunders County, said geese like to graze on short grass.

He said they've had a hard time creating grassy areas around the lake because geese pull out seedlings by the roots.

The migratory birds flock to the airport right before harvest and then avoid it afterward so it is not a year-round problem, Burke said.

"I don't know how bad it was before the lake opening," Burke said, who came on the board in 2010. "It's something that's happened over the last few years."

Burke said the airport authority wants to avoid any bird-plane collisions like the one that crippled a U.S. Airways passenger jetliner in 2009. The aircraft lost power in both engines — after possibly striking birds — and the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River in New York.

"If it was a goose, it could take a (small) plane down," he said.

The airport authority is working with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, which oversees the lake and state recreation area, to come up with a plan to keep geese away from the airport in the fall.

Miyoshi said the NRD also is concerned about the problem and is going to follow the advice of Game and Parks biologists on what should be done.

"They are the experts in running parks and wildlife management areas," he said.

The NRD has not counted the migratory fowl, but Miyoshi said during fall migration, large numbers of ducks and geese can be seen in and around the lake daily.

Vehicles have been used so far to scare the geese away, with limited success. Burke said the airport authority would like to use shotguns, loaded with blanks, to scare the birds. If that doesn't work, live ammunition will be used as a last resort.

The airport authority can't use firearms now because the airport is within the city limits of Wahoo and local ordinances do not allow firearms of any kind to be discharged. Talks are underway to give the airport authority an exception to the law.

"Right now we're trying to get ready for next year," Burke said.


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