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Page 167
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 9
another department), and the City wanted us
to note just what we hoped the revegetation
might look like when all was said and done,
so that any myopic site inspector would know
a finished project when he saw it.
By the end of July 2008, we finally submit-
ted a wetland mitigation plan the City could
live with. We outlined the grasses we planned
to use (buffalo, prairie, sideoats grama, green
sprangletop, etc.) and the wildflowers (huisa-
che daisy, scarlet sage, bundleflower, black-
eyed Susan, partridge pea, and others) and the
scrubs (American beautyberry, evergreen su-
mac, button bush, Mexican buckeye, redbud,
and so on). In all we distributed nearly 700
pounds of grass, cover, and wildflower seed
over a four-acre area, and what the Texas rain
didn't wash away eventually blossomed into a
charming, though scruffy, patch of grassland
to rival any in the state.
Water Doesn't Come Cheap
In January 2009, only months after putting
our wetland mitigation challenges behind us,
we turned to the issue of supplying water to
the airport. For basic water needs (toilets and
drinking water and faucets) we could get by
with installing a low-cost 2-inch water line.
Then the Travis County Fire Marshal (yet
another player in the approval process) "sug-
gested" we install fire sprinklers in the airport
terminal and all of the hangars. Problem was
sprinklers required considerably more water
than a 2-inch line could handle.
Note to reader: Fire sprinklers may help
prevent fire damage, but they also cause mas-
sive water damage even when the fire itself
is harmless, say when an ornery aircraft me-
chanic throws a half-lit cigar into the shop
trash can and the nasty cigar smoke triggers
the fire sprinklers. I called my insurance
agent, who confirmed a nagging suspicion of
mine--that if I installed fire sprinklers, my
insurance rates would go up not down. Ac-
cording to my agent, his company had paid
out well more in aircraft-related water dam-
ages for falsely triggered fire sprinkler sys-
tems than they'd paid in actual damages from
smoke and fire.
I explained all this to the fire marshal, who
rolled his eyes and suggested I take it up with
the authors of the International Fire Code. No
getting around it, we had to meet fire flow and
duration specifications, which meant a water
system capable of supplying 1,500 gallons a
minute for two solid hours, or somewhere in
the range of 180,000 gallons of water over a
two-hour period.
A standard 2-inch line running across the
property wasn't cheap. A water line of suffi-
cient size to supply 1,500 gallons a minute,
likely a 10-inch line, stretching from the main
water line at the east end of the airport prop-
erty to the new terminal location at the far
west end of the property (or roughly 10,000
linear feet of water line) would cost me a small
Immediately, I grabbed Bob Nelesen and
Frank McIllwain and Andy Perry and locked
the four of us in a conference room until we
could come up with some alternatives to in-
stalling a massive new water line. One early
idea was to create a detention pond and, in the
event of a fire, pump water out of the nearby