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Page 163
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 9
The True Cost of Free
In theory, the fix didn't cost me a cent. In
practice, the entire experience cost me in
two different ways. First, I had to pay several
smart and trustworthy people like Frank Mc-
Illwain and Johney Boles and Jim Craig and
my own construction supervisors to be on-site
as much as possible to keep an eye on things.
Second, the runway had been shut down for
four additional months and in the meantime I
wasn't able to move forward with other proj-
ects--installing runway lighting, painting
stripes and, most important, scheduling for
the FAA to come on-site and evaluate and ap-
prove our instrument approach procedures
by flight checks at the airport.
I suppose there was a third cost, one harder
to put a price on--the cost of a two-color run-
way. In the months since laying the asphalt
the runway/taxiway had faded to a nice char-
coal gray. The new sections, however, were
a glaring midnight black, which from above
looked like a fat 30-foot-wide black stripe
across the runway/taxiway at an odd angle of
say 30 degrees.
Would the difference in runway color af-
fect durability? No. Would it affect landings
and takeoffs? Other than to give a landing pi-
lot pause to consider what the stripe meant,
probably not. The cost, at least to me, was
that my brand-new runway now looked old
and patched and we hadn't yet opened the
airport or landed a single airplane on its pris-
tine surface. That and a two-color runway was
just plain ugly. Bottom line, I had a choice to
make. I could make the runway/taxiway a
consistent color by recoating the whole thing,
using a pricey asphalt sealer at a cost of a cool
sixty thousand dollars. Or I could learn to live
with a patched runway and stop complaining.
At this point, I still hadn't decided which way
to go.
Wetland Mitigation
Environmental protection rule number
one: If during construction you disturb a wet-
land, you then have to mitigate any harm by
building another wetland in its place. That
was the City of Austin's position, and as far as
I was concerned, it was a good one. Because
our new 6,025-foot runway and taxiway ran
too close to three existing stock ponds--one
located behind the old flight office, another
north and east of the runway, and a third at
the north end of the runway on Mrs. Dear-
ing's property--we had to mitigate the harm
to the environment and wildlife by building a
new wetland located nearby.
So it was in May 2008. Environmental sci-
entist Ryan Mountain with Garver Engineers
proposed a new wetland of approximately 500
feet by 500 feet (slightly larger than the pond
behind the old flight office), and this new wet-
land included an additional 150-foot setback
surrounding the entire mitigation area. He
located the new wetland at the north end of
the runway and east of the tarmac by a couple
of hundred feet. Later we proposed a second
mitigation area, a triangular-shaped patch
of sloped earth and grasses east of the flight
office pond.