Around 150 Heber Valley citizens attended the Heber Valley Flightpath kick off meeting on Wednesday evening. The meeting included an introduction of the Airport Master Plan update and a timeline outlining the steps leading to its eventual completion. The estimated completion of the nine-step process is Summer 2021.
Dave Mitchells with TO engineers is a project manager aiding Heber City, its residents and the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, with the Airport Master Plan update. Mitchells explained that the Heber Airport is part of a national network of airports and has received funds from the FAA to maintain the airport to a certain standard. As part of receiving those grants the airport has certain grant assurances, or requirements that come with the federal money. Mitchell explains one of those assurances has to do with planning.
“That’s grant assurance 29, Airport Layout Plans, or ALP’s,” Mitchells explained. “It says that the ALP must be current and up to date. An ALP is just a plan of the airport that shows a whole bunch of things, but you may be asking what's that got to do with a master plan? Well one of the main work products of a master plan is an Airport Layout Plan.”
The FAA recommends that ALP’s be upgraded every 10 years or so or when an operational change takes place at the airport. The Master Plan update will cost an estimated $580,000 with the FAA funding 90% of the project and the state of Utah funding about five percent. Leaving Heber City to fund the remaining five percent at an estimated cost of $27,781. The FAA also approves the forecast of future demand at the airport, and accepts the final Airport Layout Plan, with reviews provided throughout the process. Mitchells says despite the FAA requirements the master plan ultimately belongs to the city and its residents.
“This is your master plan,” Mitchells said. “It’s not the FAA’s master plan. It’s something you need to do as part of the grant assurances, but they’re not going to dictate the outcome of the Master Plan.”
Heber City Mayor Kellen Potter outlines the key stakeholders for the plan.
"Heber City is the official airport sponsor,” Potter continued. “The five members of the Heber City Council are the ones that have to make the final decision when all this information comes to them. It's a lot of pressure, and it's a lot of information. That's why we need to get all the input we can, so they get as educated as possible about the realities and the input of the community. The FAA has to sign off the flight path airport forecast and make sure we're meeting the regulations and requirements that we have committed to. Project managers. We have engineers and riders and environmental specialists. All of these people have to make sure it's accurate and thorough and comprehensive and beneficial to our community as possible. And again, you as community members. Whether you're represented by the committees, whether you're getting input to them or to the council members directly. It’s really important that we get the communities feedback, because once this plan is in place it's going to be here for a while.”
Mayor Potter outlined some of the benefits of having the airport in the area. One specific incident she cited was the use of air support out of the Heber Airport to combat the 2018 Dollar Ridge Fire that burned nearly 60,000 acres in Wasatch County.
“There's other ways that the airport helps our community,” Potter explained. “Supports again, fire and emergency safety services. We have a lot of head of household jobs. Important economic drivers in our community like tourism and business travel. Also, it supports recreational aviation including gliders, hot air balloon enthusiasts, and some small general aviation. Another interesting thing is it preserves a large tract of open space into the future, it's hard to imagine what might be there instead.”
Those opposed to any changes to the airport cite concerns of increased noise and air pollution and believe that the majority of economic benefits from the airport leave Heber City and the county.
Completing the Airport Master Plan update will be accomplished in nine steps, with five additional public meetings giving citizens opportunities to learn more and provide feedback to the Heber City Council, advisory committees, project managers and the FAA.
The next steps in the process will occur during the Spring of 2020. That process will include an inventory of current airport operations and an aviation demand forecast. The entire process can be found on HeberValleyFlightpath.com where people can also provide comment.