Monday, May 23, 2016

Master plan, site selection study for Livingston Parish airport nears completion

A master plan and site selection study for a proposed airport in Livingston Parish could be completed by June, just in time for the first meeting of the newly created parish Airport Board.

Parish officials have been discussing the possibility of building a general aviation airport for the better part of a decade, and in 2012, a study determined one would be highly feasible.

An airport could enhance economic development by allowing business owners to fly in and look at property for future development, without having to stop first in Baton Rouge, Gonzales or Hammond, Parish President Layton Ricks said.

An airstrip also would provide critical access for medical personnel and relief supplies during emergencies such as floods, hurricanes or tornadoes, Ricks said.

Consultant Lucien “Lu” Cutrera said he is putting the final touches on the master plan and site selection study and hopes to have both reports completed by the end of this month.

The new Livingston Parish Airport Board will then vote whether to accept the reports and, if so, seek approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development for the project, Cutrera said.

The Parish Council created the Airport Board May 12 but has not yet named its members. According to the resolution creating the body, it will be composed of four council members or their designees, a state senator and state representative or their designees and the parish president.

Ricks said the legislators whose districts include the prospective site for the airport — Sen. Dale Erdey and Rep. Clay Schexnayder — will be the ones serving, or appointing representatives, on the board.

To comply with state and federal guidelines for distance between airports and a request from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in Livingston, parish officials have narrowed their focus to an area south of Interstate 12 and north of La. 42, between La. 63 and La. 447.

Parish Councilman Jeff Averett represents that area. Which other three council members will serve on the board is up to the council, Ricks said.

The airstrip, planned as a single runway about 5,000 feet long with a parallel taxiway, would be oriented in a north-to-south direction to minimize cross-wind landings, Cutrera said.

“We’ve already done a Phase I environmental site assessment, and the only thing that showed up is the potential or possibility of wetlands around the runway corridor,” Cutrera said. “No artifacts, historical structures, pollution or anything else.”

A wetlands determination will be made during a later environmental assessment phase, he said.

Ricks said the parish is still at least six to eight years away from seeing a completed airstrip.

Although the preliminary studies have been funded partly with parish money, the airport itself would be funded through state and federal sources and must meet state and federal guidelines.

“That’s why it’s taking so long. He’s having to go through all the hoops to make sure it will eventually qualify for FAA dollars,” Ricks said. “The parish is not going to build it. And obviously, the hope is that if done correctly with enough people housing their planes there, that will be the funding source internally to help with maintenance and upkeep.”

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