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Wadena airport runway project may not get funded

The Wadena City Council discussed future airport plans at the regular meeting, with some funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) falling through.

Benita Crow of engineering and professional services firm SEH said runway alignments have to fall short of 95 percent wind coverage to be eligible for the funding.

"The goal of the FAA, whenver there is a new airport, is to have the runway alignments as such that 95 percent of the time, any aircraft can land on that runway alignment," Crow said.

The Wadena airport was initially eligible for federal funding because Runway 16/34 fell short of the 95 percent requirement.

A memorandum from Crow to the city said that the Wadena Municipal Airport is the subject of an environmental assessment funded mostly by the FAA in order to analyze the impacts of completing the crosswind runway - Runway 3/21.

Previous data over the years from Fargo, Hibbing and Park Rapids gauged less than the 95 percent threshold, and because of that the Wadena airport was ruled to need two runways and eligible for federal funds for a crosswind runway.

But when recent wind data was taken even closer - Staples - it was measured right at 95 percent.

Crow said a second runway is a safety improvement in any airport.

In November 2011, the FAA decided that the Wadena airport was overqualified for the funding now, and that the existing runway was sufficient.

Crow said that to finish the second runway, the city had different options. The city could stop work, close up the grant and move on to other capital improvement projects at the airport. Another option was to talk to the FAA.

Council member Jeanette Baymler and city administrator Brad Swenson said getting support from pilots in the area could help.

A map of proposed alternatives for runways showed different options and whether each side would have optimal wind coverage, impact Black's Grove Park, impact wetlands or impact private residences.