In a brief special meeting of its governing board early Tuesday morning, Hailey's Friedman Airport indicated it's ready to seize the control they need over trees protruding into the newly-lowered approach path into the valley's only airport with airline services.
The Friedman Airport Authority has tried for more than a year to persuade its southern neighbor, the Flying Hat Ranch owned by Cleone P. Eccles and Spencer F. Eccles, to allow the airport to place solar-powered flashing red lights atop aluminum poles in the upper tree trunks so pilots can see and avoid the treetops as they approach Friedman's runway to land.
From the Eccles' point of view, the cottonwoods lining their driveway weren't in Friedman Field's glideslope before the runway threshold was moved 600 feet closer to the ranch last Spring and therefore, the airport has created the problem, not them.
The Airport Authority, operating in public and observed by the press, selected to move the runway south to avoid having to install and maintain an EMAS – Engineered Materials Arresting System - to catch aircraft before they cross highway 75 and motor into Roberta McKercher Park, as one local executive jet once did. The EMAS costs $3.5 to $5 million, obliges its owner with $50,000 in annual upkeep expenses even if it's never used and it's centered right at the end of the runway, able to catch only those out-of-control aircraft that travel right down the center of the runway.
The Authority took advantage of a recent rulemaking by the Federal Aviation Administration in electing instead to create a 1,000-foot run-out area, figuring that's long enough for an out-of-control aircraft to regain control. That northern 1,000-foot safety area obliged the airport to scoot its runway 600 feet south, since there was only 400 feet available in the north. That 600-foot shift pushed the bottom of the instrument approach path – the glideslope - into Eccles' trees, though the runway extension itself is still within the airport's property line.
Airport manager Rick Baird insists the runway shift was a very public process covered by several of the valley's press, including this one. Baird is therefore certain the Eccles heard about and understand the reasoning behind the runway shift. Whether they understood all along the shift would mean their trees would become a problem, we don't know.
Still, as airport attorney Barry Luboviski has stated several times, airport staff have tried for more than a year to negotiate some kind of deal with the Eccles, but without ever speaking directly with either of them and reaching only their attorney, Evan Robertson, or their ombudsman, Mark Reinemann.
While the airport staff continue negotiating – now with a sizable stick in hand - Boise's Hawley-Troxell law firm will be preparing for quick legal action once the deadline arrives. Authority member Leonard Harlig said the negotiating deadline is a bit fuzzy but all affairs must be completed and the trees either lit, topped or felled by this coming October 26, the date the FAA will publish the new approach into the airport for all pilots to use. Meaning all dickering for a deal must be completed prior to the exercise of a 'hasty' version of eminent domain.
Failing to reach an agreement means Friedman's approach becomes invalid since the runway's threshold will have to be moved 600 feet north of where it is currently designed to be. The delay will curtail all instrument approaches to the airport for at least two months, Luboviski has said, which would include the valley's crucial Christmas tourism season.
With the Tuesday's passage of the following, Hawley-Troxell will begin preparing the must-win case.
The following resolutions are hereby adopted with the consent of the Board of Commissioners of the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority, a political subdivision of the State of Idaho ("Authority"), at a meeting of said Commissioners, duly called at which a quorum was present, held on September 12, 2006.
WHEREAS, the Commissioners have determined it necessary for the continued proper and full utilization of the Friedman Memorial Airport ("Airport") to take necessary and appropriate actions to establish, protect and maintain a 20: 1 approach slope on the south end of the Airport ("Approach Surface"); and
WHEREAS, the protection of the Approach Surface requires either the removal of obstructions to the Approach Surface or placement of obstruction lights on penetrations to the Approach Surface thereby allowing the Airport to meet certain requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration and allow the Authority to open and fully utilize the southern most 600 feet of pavement of the Airport runway; and
WHEREAS, in order to establish, install and maintain appropriate mitigation measures for obstructions to the Approach Surface, it is necessary for the Authority to establish some interest in a portion of the adjoining property which the Authority believes to be owned by Cleone P. Eccles and Spencer F. Eccles ("Eccles"), said interest to be a right of entry, an easement or fee title; and
WHEREAS, the Authority is committed to negotiating in good faith with Eccles in order to obtain an interest in their property so as to establish, install and maintain appropriate mitigation measures for obstructions to the Approach Surface and yet, to the extent reasonable, address the needs and concerns of Eccles; and
WHEREAS, the Authority's representatives must be diligent in their negotiations for the acquisition of an interest in Eccles' property so as not to disrupt commercial flights into the Airport and to comply with the requirements of the FAA for utilization of the southern most 600 feet of pavement of the Airport runway; and
WHEREAS, if the Authority's representatives are unsuccessful within the allowed timeframe in reaching an agreement with Eccles, the Authority will need to utilize its power of eminent domain to acquire an interest in Eccles' property; and
WHEREAS, upon acquisition of the interest, the Authority shall convey the interest to Blaine County and the City of Hailey jointly for the use and benefit of the Airport subject to a lease back to the Authority for Airport purposes.
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS:
RESOLVED that the Authority, by and through its designated representatives, shall diligently negotiate in good faith with Eccles to acquire an interest in their property in order to establish, install and maintain appropriate mitigation measures for obstructions to the Approach Surface; and
RESOLVED FURTHER, that said interest is to be a right of entry, an easement or fee title as the designated representatives shall reasonably determine and yet, to the extent reasonable, address the needs and concerns of Eccles; and
RESOLVED FURTHER, that in the event the Authority's representatives cannot timely reach an agreement with Eccles, the Authority may utilize its power of eminent domain to acquire an interest in Eccles' property in order to establish, install and maintain appropriate mitigation measures for obstructions to the Approach Surface; and
RESOLVED FURTHER, that as of the date of this resolution, any actions previously taken to carry out these resolutions, and all certificates, instruments, and other documents so executed and delivered, are ratified, confirmed and approved in all respects.
The effective date of this action is September 12, 2006.
Friedman Memorial Airport Authority
Martha Burke, Chairman
Sun Valley OnLine (Hailey ID): http://www.sunvalleyonline.com