June 10, 2014

Airport to undergo $2 million expansion

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Watford City’s Airport has received a $2 million grant from the Board of University and School Lands (Land Board) to help fund a new airport terminal, as well as apron and parking lot expansions.
The award to Watford City was part of nearly $9 million in grants that were approved by the Land Board to help fund airport improvement projects in North Dakota’s oil and gas counties.
According to Tim Taylor, chairman of the Watford City Airport Authority, the improvements are needed to meet the growing use at the local airport.
“We are averaging five to 10 landings a day at the airport,” states Taylor. “Last week, we had 12 aircraft on the ramp. And the majority of them were jets and turbo prop airplanes.”
The increased flight activity at the Watford City Airport is the result of increased oil activity in McKenzie County.
“We plan to begin the apron expansion by the end of June,” states Taylor. “The project will take approximately two months to complete. And then we intend to begin construction of the terminal building.”
The existing apron is over 20 years old and was originally made with asphalt, which is overdue for replacement. The terminal, which is a trailer house currently, has been in place for nearly 40 years. Taylor said the current terminal building is not only old, but is not big enough to handle the needs of the airport.
“For a lot of folks flying into Watford City, the airport is the first thing they see,” Taylor said. “It’s their first impression of Watford City.”
The new airport terminal will offer a place for people who are flying in to meet family or business partners, as well as be a place for pilots to relax and rest in-between flights, according to Taylor.
“We always need to update and expand to accommodate additional growth and activity,” Taylor said.
While the apron expansion and new terminal facility will be significant improvements at the Watford City Airport, Taylor says that the runway also needs to be lengthened to accommodate the large planes and jets that want to fly into Watford City.
“We’re working on plans right now to expand our runway from its current length of 4,400 feet to at least 5,500 feet,” states Taylor. “It’s a high priority for us. But it will be a three- to five-year process.”
The Land Board also approved a grant of $1 million toward a water supply improvement project in Alexander and a $1 million grant to Arnegard for wastewater system improvements.
To date, the Land Board has authorized $187.7 million in Energy Impact Grant funds to help address the impacts of rapid growth in western North Dakota during the 2013-2015 biennium. About $51million remains to be granted during the next fiscal year.