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City to Remove Excess Pavement from Santa Monica Airport Runway
By Jorge Casuso
April 4, 2019 -- After meeting with some turbulence from pilots, the City Council last week paved to way to convert the pavement left after the Santa Monica Airport runway was shortened to hydroseed.
In a unanimous vote, the Council authorized the City Manager to negotiate and execute a $3 million contract with Sully-Miller Contracting Company to construct and maintain the hydroseeded area.
It also authorized a $216,761 contract with CivilSource for management and inspection services.
Opponents said the project to replace the pavement left after the runway was shortened in December 2017 was a waste of taxpayer money ("Santa Monica Airport Starts Ten-Day Closure to Aircraft for Runway Shortening," December 15, 2017).
"Who benefits from taking the pavement away? No one," said Christian Fry, president of the Santa Monica Airport Association.
"Spend no money and leave the payment," Fry said. "The best use of these revenues is somewhere else."
Staff noted that while most of the project will be paid with airport revenues, pulverizing and stabilizing the pavement would need to be paid for with General Fund dollars.
Staff also noted that aviation groups have asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to overturn its prior guidance concerning the use of airport funds.
If the FAA does so, "the balance of the project likely would need to be paid using General Fund dollars," staff said.
Under the authorized contract, Sully-Miller will spray "plant seeds, finely ground water-soluble fertilizer, and a stabilization mixture" over the 14-acre area "to ensure that the seeds stick to the surface," staff said.
Mulch would be added to help sprout the "low-growing, drought tolerant plants and perennial grasses native to Southern California," staff said.
Per FAA guidelines, the plants cannot attract wildlife, staff said.
But some opponents worried the plantings would attract birds, increasing the chance of bird strikes.
They also urged the City to leave the gravel, which they said could be needed to extend the runway in the event an emergency requires larger aircraft carrying equipment to land.
The Council voted unanimously to approve the consent calendar item with no comment.
Reducing the runway from almost 5,000 feet to about 3,500 feet has resulted in an 81 percent drop in jet aircraft operations ("Jet Departures at Santa Monica Airport Took Nosedive in 2018," January 11, 2019).
The project was part of an agreement with the FAA that will shut down the century-old airport at the end of 2028 ("City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028," January 28, 2017).
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