By BRYCE MARTIN
The new Bowman County Regional Airport is approaching Phase II and several million-dollar grants are helping to fund the project.
Bowman County's Airport Authority opened bids at the end of July for Phase II, which consists of the surfacing and electric work. After the bids were place and costs were figured, the authority applied for several grants and received two last month.
From its brimming energy impact grant fund, the state of North Dakota gave the airport a $1.9 million grant. The airport also received a $5.5 million federal grant.
Phase I, which began the summer of 2012, was mainly dirt work for the new airport's runway and is very near completion.
As far as Phase II work, Bowman County Airport Secretary Treasurer Bob Morland said he isn't sure when the project will begin.
"It's unlikely that they'll start this fall, so it will probably begin next year and be done by the end of next summer," Morland said.
An evaluation completed nearly a decade ago of the existing airport to the west of the city of Bowman discovered major drawbacks to the runway, which led to the process of finding a sustainable location to create a new airport from the ground up.
"Especially some of the oil field aircraft that would come in wouldn't be able to leave safely with full fuel and depart out of here," Morland said. "So we looked into adding a little bit onto the end of the existing airport to be able to accommodate that and that didn't work; it created more questions than it did answers."
Bowman County Regional Airport, classified as a general aviation airport, lost 150 feet of the northwest portion of the runway because of adjacent railroad.
"They were telling us we were going to lose another 150 feet in the future," Morland said. "So it kind of started off looking at options on what we could do to get some of that back."
The board conducted an evaluation of the airport and the study found that Bowman would need to start over in a new location.
The board soon after began examining all available options. Additional logistical problems plaguing possible modifications to the existing airport included wildlife and wetlands issues and lack of space due to the abutting railroad and highway.
The process to determine the next step was a long undertaking, Morland said.
"It took a long time, but most of it was just deciding what to do - do we expand, reorient and redo the existing and was that possible? Well, that turned out to be the least of the attractive options," he said.
The current airport is 75 feet wide by 4,800 feet long. But there is 150 feet of unusable footage on the north end. It is usable for landing, but not ideal for takeoff, which requires more runway.
The new airport will feature a runway that is 75 feet wide by 5,700 feet long and entirely usable.
Light jets to small two-seat aircraft use the current airport, which Morland said the board hopes to improve at the new location.
The timeline for the airport's completion was dependent upon further funding, which now is somewhat eased by the new grants.
"If you'd have asked me in early spring, I would have said we hoped to have it by next summer. But right now, it's not going to happen by next summer, I know that," Morland said. "Maybe by the spring of 2015 would be my best guess right now."
Airports typically are built using airport improvement funds, which essentially are fuel taxes. The federal government pays 90 percent of the cost, the state matches 5 percent and the local community has a 5 percent match.
The dirt-work contract was let last summer and is what current passersby see being done at the site. That work began in September and crews worked late into the fall, beginning again this spring.
That part of the contract was supposed to be completed in the third week of July, but it was extended into the first week of August. In late spring, workers didn't get started as early as they wanted to and had issues from the significant rainfall.