Airport wins $4.4 million grant | RecordCourier.com

Airport wins $4.4 million grant

A deer crosses the grounds of Minden-Tahoe Airport.
Douglas County photo |

While deer and antelope are welcome to play out on the range, they’re not welcome on Minden-Tahoe Airport’s airstrips.

“At one time we had a herd of 70 deer on the airport,” Airport Manager Bobbi Thompson said. “That obviously brought the coyotes who would feed on the deer and a mountain lion and a bear.”

Last week, Douglas County commissioners accepted a $4.45 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to build a fence around the airport for the first time in its 72-year history, Thompson said.

“We do have three strands of barbed wire, which doesn’t even slow the deer down,” Thompson said jokingly. “As they’re coming onto the airport, they do look both ways before crossing the runway.”

She said the fence will also prevent motorists from driving around on the airport.

“It will make it a much, much safer environment,” she said.

Douglas County will provide $270,276 in matching funds, which will come from airport revenues.

“None comes from county funds whatsoever,” she said. “We’re very proud of that fact.”

The grant will also pay for rehabilitation of the airport’s runway lights, which feature bare wires in the ground, engineering a larger glider ramp.

Thompson said both the FAA and airport staff plan to complete the work this year.

Thompson said there will still be three strands of barbed wire around the airport, though they will top an 8-foot fence.

“It’s hard for anyone in aviation to believe that airport has not been fenced in the last 72 years,” Commission Nancy McDermid said.

Commissioner Barry Penzel congratulated Thompson on getting the grant.

“Working with the FAA is no picnic,” he said. “I congratulate you on getting that done, it’s no mean feat.”

Thompson credited the airport staff who have been taking pictures of the various critters who’ve visited over the past three years.

The funding for the grant comes from taxes paid on tickets for air travel.

“The fact that Bobbi is getting some of that money back into Douglas County is a really great thing,” Penzel said.

Commission Chairman Doug Johnson pointed out that if voters hadn’t approved a new airport ordinance lifting the weight restriction in 2010, the grant wouldn’t have occurred.

The airport was approved during World War II in anticipation of a Japanese invasion of California. By the time it was completed, that danger had passed, and it was put to use for training. After the war, the U.S. government transferred ownership to Douglas County. In the 1980s, a series of voter initiatives established a weight limit at the airport.