Runway obstructions to be removed at Ocean Shores Municipal Airport

Some gifts come with strings attached. That is certainly the case for the $150,000 in entitlement funds that the city of Ocean Shores receives annually from the Federal Aviation Administration to support the Ocean Shores Municipal Airport.

Once the city accepts the funds, they must comply with FAA regulations for the next 20 years per allocation. This includes addressing any hazards that are identified during the compliance period.

According to Ocean Shores Grant Coordinator and Airport Manager Sarah Bisson, the city now has to embark on a project to remove trees that are encroaching on the airspace. The project is expected to cost $737,512.

“This is a project that has been coming down the line … we conducted an environmental assessment in 2018 with FAA funds, and in 2021 we conducted a design process working with WDFW (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) and our architect on call to assess design standards and a plan of attack to actually remove the obstruction from the airspace,” said Bisson at the Monday, July 11, regular meeting of the Ocean Shores City Council.

“This included working with the planning office to determine wetland mitigation bank credits necessary and replanting moving forward.”

Thankfully, 90 percent of the construction funds are covered by the FAA, with the possibility of WSDOT contributing up to 5 percent as well. This means, at most, the city of Ocean Shores will match approximately $73,000 for the project.

The city had previously cached $408,000 in FAA entitlement funds in the hopes that they could cover the project, which will be put toward the FAA’s 90 percent contribution.

“The FAA will utilize the airport entitlement funds that we have now plus the FAA Biden Infrastructure Law allocation that is dedicated specifically to our airport in $110,00, and then add in about $146,000 of their own discretionary funding,” said Bisson.

The Ocean Shores City Council approved a $553,759 grant award from the Airport Improvement Program at Monday night’s meeting, committing the city to $61,528 in matching funds for this period. That brings the total funding for this share to $615,287 — about $120,000 shy of the funding total.

A second award is expected once the Biden Infrastructure Law funding is finalized.

Beginning with the environmental assessment in 2018, total project costs are estimated to reach $1.25 million.

“I don’t think anybody expected the cost of this to be so extravagant, but again, this is 90 percent funded by the FAA and we must follow their regulations moving forward,” Bisson said.

The city is also exploring avenues to mitigate the costs of obstruction removal in the future, as the FAA will only pay for a tree to be removed once. Relying on federal funds also corners the city into additional regulation expenditures, such as environmental assessments that cost the city approximately $330,000, shared Bisson.

“The remedy in the future is to work (with) WDFW to create a conversation with them. They’re working on the template so our city staff can manage trees and shrubs before they become an issue again,” Bisson said. “The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) will allow us to avoid federal funding in the future for this task and the regulations attached to it.”

The city council also approved the lowest bid for the obstruction removal from Quigg Bros. for the amount of $634,975. Work is anticipated to start within 30 days of contract confirmation, followed by replacement work with the required arborist next spring to account for removed trees and shrubs and protect habitats.