By ROY WOOD
The dream of a fully functioning airport in Osoyoos is alive and well as a group of advocates continues to push the project forward, most recently with a $25,000 “strategic plan and opportunity assessment.”
The Osoyoos Airport Development Society (OADS) appeared before town council on Monday, along with a couple of staffers from InterVISTAS Consulting, to outline their vision of the road toward an airport that will include a longer and wider runway, fencing, lighting, hangars, navigation aids and eventually a steady flow of aircraft.
The study, funded by a grant from the Osoyoos Credit Union’s Community Giving Grant program, acknowledges the complexity of the project but provides a six-item list of strategic goals and a compendium of “action items” to move forward.
At the top of both lists is the creation of a “governance structure.” That is, who will be responsible for figuring out how to get an airport up and running and for operating it once it exists.
Two possible options were offered:
•A society model, which would see members of a society, with aviation skills and interests, organize and run the airport through a lease agreement with the town; or
•An advisory board model, under which the town would be responsible, likely through an airport manager that it would hire. The board would advise, but the town would run the airport.
OADS president Glen Harris said in an interview following Monday’s presentation that the next step will be a meeting including the town, the society and the Osoyoos Indian Band to begin working toward a governance model.
Reaction from council was subdued. Mayor Sue McKortoff stopped well short of indicating any enthusiasm for the town taking on an active role.
“Thank you very much to all of you,” she said. “We see that you have some plans to move forward on this, so thank you for presenting what you have and we look forward to seeing what you have next on the list.”
At a later meeting, Councillor CJ Rhodes acknowledged the magnitude of the project and suggested that Osoyoos residents go onto the town website and watch the video of the InterVISTAS’ presentation at Monday’s committee meeting and provide feedback.
“Personally, I’d like to hear from more residents in our community,” he said. “It’s a fairly significant project in our community that’s moving forward in a fairly positive way right now. But public input is so important.”
He encouraged residents to contact himself, one of the other councillors or the mayor.
The InterVISTAS report is available as part of the agenda for Monday’s committee of the whole meeting at: osoyoos.civicweb.net/filepro/documents/75427?preview=79893
Part of the vision for the future is an extension of the current relatively short runway. The report suggested a couple of options.
A southern extension would be limited to about 500 feet, but would face fewer barriers because the about half the required land is already part of the airport lease area. The remainder would need to be purchased. Such an extension would “increase the capacity of the airfield to accommodate a greater variety of small, general aviation aircraft.”
A northern extension could add considerably more runway length: up to 2,030 feet. A runway of such length enable scheduled passenger aircraft operations with small aircraft of about 10 seats.
One of the problems with the northern extension is that the land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Harris acknowledged the difficulty, but said it may be possible to make an arrangement with the Agricultural Land Commission for a land swap to get the needed 25 or so acres out of the ALR.
As for funding, the report cited several provincial and federal grant programs, some specifically for airport development and others for general infrastructure or business creation projects.
The subject of funding from the town to the airport didn’t come up during the presentation or the questions that followed. But the report’s final paragraph says: “Many airports across Canada are owned and operated by their respective municipality. … In the case of the Town of Osoyoos, a decision will have to be made by Council as to whether or not public funds will be made available to the airport.”