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By Caroline Downs
The Kenmare Municipal Airport will essentially have a new runway, once a project to rejuvenate the surface of the existing runway is completed this fall.
Hank Bodmer of the Kenmare Airport Authority reported the local airport was awarded a $1.1 million Federal Aviation Administration grant earlier in July for the overlay project. The airport already received $290,000 in North Dakota Energy Impact funds to be used toward the work.
Total cost of the project is estimated at nearly $1.4 million, with about $75,000 yet to be covered. The city of Kenmare allots four mills (about $8,000) annually to the airport, with no funds received from Ward County.
“We serve a much larger area than just Kenmare, so we really should get a tax levy from a larger area, but we don’t,” Bodmer said. “We hope to tap more local sources for [the runway repairs].”
The overlay project will fix the cracks and rough spots that plague pilots on the current runway. According to Bodmer, a layer of existing pavement will be removed from the runway. The cracks will be patched with a fabric seal, then the surface will be covered with four inches of new pavement.
“They’ll also install edge drains on both sides of the runway,” Bodmer said. “That will drain water away from the runway.”
The current east-west runway was constructed in the mid-1970s when a 2600’ paved strip replaced the old grass strip at the site, which was established in 1967.
Bodmer explained the runway was extended to 3900’ and widened to 60’ in 1989.
“They did an excellent job when they did that work,” he said, “but now it needs to be redone. All the other airports in the area were built after ours and have also had their runways repaired since then.”
Central Specialties of Alexandria, MN, has the contract for the overlay project. “The Airport Authority will meet with them in the next couple of weeks,” said Bodmer.
He expected work to begin on the runway in late August or early September. “They promised me it would be completed by late September,” he said.
Bodmer said the project was announced for bids last summer, with no success. “We received no bids,” he said, adding that Kyle Wanner, aviation planner at the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, and Mark Holzer, program manager at the FAA in Bismarck, both provided critical assistance this year. “They really helped us out.”
Airport Layout Plan
for Kenmare’s future
While the Airport Authority makes plans for immediate upgrades to the airport, the board is also involved in a long-range planning project as they work with engineers from KLJ in Bismarck to prepare an Airport Layout Plan (ALP) as required by the FAA.
“We have to have this done in order to get any money or approval from the FAA to do anything,” Bodmer said, “and we haven’t had a plan done since 1989.”
He described the ALP as a wishlist for the Airport Authority. “I expect the airport won’t get bigger,” he said. “This is the basis for if we hit the lotto, but if things happen to grow, that’s what will be done out there.”
Kenmare’s airport sees more traffic than most people realize. “Three or four of us fly all the time, but a lot of people come and go for projects they’re doing in the area,” Bodmer said. “I get calls a few times every month for transportation and the status of the airport.”
Some of the increased demand at the airport is related to activity in the Bakken oilfield. “We’re the only airport between Crosby and Mohall, and we service a lot of the area north of here,” said Bodmer. “We’re the last paved strip before Canada.”
Medical flights are also handled at the Kenmare airport, again without much notice from the public. “The big advantage here is that you’re only hours away from medical treatment at a large hospital,” Bodmer said. “These flights come and go fairly often.”
City residents can see two new hangars under construction at the airport now, owned by Julius Brekhus and Andy Mau, but those will be the last hangars added to the current layout of the airport. “We’re out of hangar space for the time being,” Bodmer said.
He noted the spray applicators would prefer faster access to the runway from the taxiway, with the taxiway extended east and a second connection to the runway built there. “That way, they could connect to the runway at two points instead of one,” Bodmer said. “That project may be eight to ten years away.”
The taxiway extension would be the top, and most affordable, priority for the Airport Authority, according to Bodmer, but the ALP takes a broader view of the airport’s development over the next 20 years, with additional construction occurring in phases.
“The second phase would be to develop the area for hangar space,” Bodmer said, referring to recommendations by KLJ engineers.
“We recognize you’re limited as to how many more hangars you can add on this taxiway,” said Eric Gilles of KLJ. He proposed a layout of up to three dozen more hangars constructed north of the two new hangars. The existing line of hangars west of there may eventually be torn down or moved as the fueling operations and airport terminal are relocated near the new hangars.
A cluster of hangars built north of the runway would mean more land would have to be acquired for the airport. Some Airport Authority board members asked about the feasibility of continuing to add hangar space east of Mau’s and Brekhus’s hangars, but KLJ engineer Tom Schauer brought up safety considerations.
“We’re trying to minimize runway crossings here,” Schauer said, “and we have a concern that as the airport gets busier, what if someone comes in and wants to build a commercial hangar?”
The final phase of the ALP involves constructing a 4,400’ crosswind runway with a northwest-southeast orientation. That runway would become the airport’s primary runway.
“Our east-west runway is fine, except in the winter, when we get crosswinds, mostly from the north, at 70- or 80-degrees,” Bodmer said. “Most airports in North Dakota have northwest-southeast access. If we build a new runway, then our existing runway would become a secondary runway, and we’d get another 25 years out of it.”
Schauer also recommended that as the Kenmare airport is developed, separate space be created for spray applicator planes to fuel and load.
Future airport development
depends on funds
Bodmer doesn’t expect to see significant development at the Kenmare airport in his lifetime, especially because of the limited funding available and the $4 or $5 million needed at today’s prices for the proposed phases.
“When the time comes for expansion, finances will dictate what you’re going to do,” he said.
However, Schauer emphasized the need for the ALP to be completed. “Then the Kenmare airport is postured and poised for development, and you have an opportunity to capture some of the money [made available by the state],” he said.
Representatives from the Kenmare Airport Authority, KLJ and the FAA will meet soon to discuss the ALP proposed for Kenmare. “We have to submit that plan to the FAA for final approval,” Bodmer said.
Once the plan is submitted, Schauer suggested an environmental assessment is started to plan for mitigation of the wetlands surrounding the current airport. “We have to minimize the risk to wildlife,” he said.
Persons with further questions about the ALP for Kenmare Municipal Airport or about the airport operations in general are welcome to contact Kenmare Airport Authority board members Bodmer, Julius Brekhus, Mike Bennett, Mark Gravesen or Boyd Brekhus.