Airport: No New Name, Serious Grass Problems

by September 22, 2009 • 1 comment

While the buzz surrounding Tuesday’s airport board meeting centered around the potential new name for the 318 million dollar gamechanger, it was talk of grass and sod that dominated the meeting. In fact, due to the overwhelming interest in the new name, a special meeting, to be held October 7th, will address that issue specifically. Although, many attending the meeting didn’t get what they came for, the very tense discussion on the condition of soil and stabilization of areas through the airport kept everyone’s attention.

James Phoenix, from Phoenix Construction, said with a pang of exasperation in his voice, “We’ve got some issues, multiple issues and we need help.”

Heavy rain and inconclusive studies on the soil at the airport site have caused the development of large areas to be completely reworked and the bill to keep rising. Large stretches of land, nearly 1400 hundred acres worth, which was believed to be stabilized, faltered under harsh rain causing all the grass to die off. Runway areas and ditches in need of regrading, have caused the most problems for site staff. “The soil condition is not what we anticipated,” said George Roberts of PBS&J, “The grass is growing and then dying off from a lack of organics. We cannot make the grass grow within the specs.”

The suggestion from airport representatives to sod the area was met with heavy contention from the board. Mr. Bill Cramer, Vice Chairman of the airport board, questioned the airport staff as to why the board was not notified of the issues in compliance with permits and what happened to the additional $500,000 dollars added to the budget to mitigate the problems.

Although no final word was reached, sodding the 1400 hundred acres could cost an additional $1 million dollars. Recommendations will be brought to the board and discussed in the coming meeting.

In other news, the airport is reported to be at 73% complete overall with 93% of the site development package completed.

The next board meeting is scheduled for October 7th

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1 Don Hodges September 23, 2009 at 10:54 am

As the engineer said in the paper, the water on site now is higher than it would be if effective stormwater controls were in place. If they could “instantaneously” get grass and drains in place, then we would know how it ends. Right now they are just swallowing more and more water as their bladder gets fuller. Its a race between getting finished and accumulating so much water that it blows again like April, only worse because they weren’t impounding so much then. They were just letting it blow out as it occurred.

They also have the problem that they can’t finish the drainage with so much of the site literally underwater. I think they are realizng more and more with every big rain just how hard it will be to turn the corner. They are expending LOTS of effort to dam out invasive sheet flow that is actually clear when it comes on site but makes more mud when it crosses the bare ground. These are not unusual rains, that is just a spin – they are heavy rains but typical of the area.

I’m finally beginning to see how they created the problem at the design level: natural drainage was east-to-west north of St Joe’s Road 7, and southerly/southeast to Morrell Branch south of Road 7. When they filled the north-south runway alignment, they altered the “side-to-side/opposite direction” flow by adding a north-south ridge across the Road 7 ridge. This created an X-shaped ridge that traps the water that used to flow west above Road 7. They have filled high (unstabilzed) berms on the northeast side to keep sheet flow OUT and even higher ones on the south side to keep muddy water IN. Drainage west of the runway and north of R7 was actually moderated (blocked) by the runway, so they are able to meter some partially treated water out to Kelly Branch and Crooked Creek with some turbidity but not disaster. If they lose the southeast/south berms it will be worse than April.

Another complication is the unfinished crosswind runway – it will take several hundred thousand cubic yards of fill to get drainage WHETHER THEY BUILD A RUNWAY OR NOT. Phoenix has withdrawn from that $multimillion problem, leaving it to be “discovered” in the near future. (The name is “James Finch”, not “James Phoenix”, btw.)

If they succeed, DEP did the creeks a huge favor by making them stop the routine releases. If they fail, the impact may be worse than if they kept releasing periodically. Its kind of like the controlled burn scenario – by saving all the mud for a climax blow-out they are taking a huge risk. UNFORTUNATELY, THE ROUTINE RELEASES WERE EGREGIOUS, AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED BY PHASED CONSTRUCTION AS COMMENTERS TOLD THEM DURING THE PLANNING It is going to cost a lot of money and perhaps an even bigger impact in spite of the cost.

Haste, influence, ignorance or incompetence, and greed = “preservation forever”. Cry for the creeks.

A link to some recent aerial photos:
http://bit.ly/NewPFN-Sept-22-09

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