Monday, October 06, 2014

Fowl hazards near Cape Girardeau Regional Airport (KCGI) discussed at council meeting

One of the first discussions to take place at the Cape Girardeau City Council's Monday night meeting centered around the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

Airport officials were concerned about additional rice fields being planted in the area and possibly attracting large waterfowl such as ducks and geese. The animals, which are attracted by the rice grains and standing water, pose risks to flying aircraft.

David Westrich owns property near the airport along Nash Road and leases land to farmers. He and lawyer Craig Billmeyer attended the council meeting to share information about discussions they recently had with airport manager Bruce Loy. Billmeyer said the farmer who wishes to plant the rice field has agreed not to allow hunting on the field, which eliminates some concern.

Some farmers allow standing water to remain on their fields after harvest to intentionally attract waterfowl, then allow hunters to come onto the property. Billmeyer said the animals, particularly geese, will be attracted to the rice field and many other food crops, but Westrich and the farmer leasing the land have no intentions to attract the birds unnecessarily.

They also expressed interest in allowing Loy to disrupt the birds and encourage them not to settle in the area if he notices a flock in or around the field. He also has permission to contact authorities if he sees hunting taking place in the field.

Loy said Westrich and the farmer have been "good neighbors" to the airport. When discussion of the rice field first began, Loy was afraid hunting might take place in the field, but knowing that's not the case "mitigates the majority of my concern," he said. But Loy worries the airport may one day have a less accommodating neighbor.

The Federal Aviation Administration recommends airports that sell Jet-A fuel, like the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, keep a 10,000 feet buffer between the airport and "hazardous wildlife attractants," including flooded rice fields intended for hunting purposes. But Loy said no laws or regulations exist granting the airport the authority to maintain that buffer or prevent someone from bringing an attractant inside the buffer zone. He told the council he plans to continue looking into the matter and possibly working with local representatives to establish legislation that would grant airports more authority on the matter.

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