Runway plan gets clearance

A majority of Vernon council voted Monday to further investigate lengthening the airport runway from 3,500 to 4,000 feet

Support for extending the runway at Vernon Regional Airport is taking flight.

While city staff had recommended not extending the runway, a majority of council voted Monday to further investigate lengthening the runway from 3,500 to 4,000 feet at a cost of $7.2 million.

“If we don’t do the runway extension and lose some business, what will the impact be?” said Coun. Catherine Lord of local corporations that use the airport.

“Our airport is an economic driver and creates a lot of jobs. It (extension) could be a large driver.”

Coun. Scott Anderson is concerned not having a sufficient runway will prevent new companies from moving to Vernon.

“Every community cries for high-tech and green jobs and we have to put that infrastructure in place,” he said.

However, staff has previously stated that only marginal increases in economic activity would come from a longer runway and the current length meets the needs of 97 per cent of aircraft movements.

Another issue that has been raised is noise.

“There are a lot of houses and development there,” said Coun. Dalvir Nahal.

As part of the process, a committee will review the option of extending the runway, including potential economic benefits. Discussions will be held with corporations that use the airport.

“We haven’t explored this as aggressively as we need to,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham.

Transport Canada has dictated that any runway extension must occur by September 2017.

Coun. Bob Spiers opposed endorsing the $7.2 million project and possibly an ultimate $11 million extension because of the burden on taxpayers.

“If there is such a great economic benefit, who is it going to and why don’t they pay for it?” he said.

“I’m happy with the airport we have now.”