Starting this month, travellers passing through the Bella Coola Airport will start seeing evidence of work underway on both the east and west ends of the airport. The Central Coast Regional District (CCRD) is undertaking a $380,000 project to remove obstacles from transition zones on either side of the runway, as well as both east and west approach surfaces.
In 2016, Transport Canada conducted an inspection of the Bella Coola Aerodrome and identified numerous obstacles encroaching inside the obstacle limitation surface (OLS). The OLS is an approach and take off surface that must remain free of obstacles. In our aerodrome, this surface leaves either end of the runway at a vertical gradient of four percent (2.3 degrees) and diverges horizontally at 10 percent. CCRD hired SNC Lavalin to conduct a detailed OLS survey.
The survey showed trees protruding into the OLS more than one kilometer away from both ends of the airport runway. Transport Canada has also provided notification that the gravel berm to the north of the runway is located inside the obstacle free zone and must be moved.
In late 2016, CCRD applied for funding to undertake the required obstacle removal. The province agreed to fund $280,525 through the BC Air Access Program and Northern Development Initiative Trust is providing a further $95,700.
The project’s primary objective is obstacle removal to facilitate continued scheduled flight service into Bella Coola. A secondary, but important long term objective, is the establishment of mowable grassland in cleared areas. This will reduce long term maintenance costs associated with repeated clearing of approach surfaces.
Activities undertaken to date include survey and layout of project areas, archaeological and biological assessments of impacted areas, discussions and agreements with affected property owners, legal survey of private property boundaries in the vicinity of proposed works, topping of large spruce on private land as well as felling of large spruce and cottonwood to the east of the airport. Totem Sawmill’s crew has been busy for several weeks with brushing in riparian areas as well as removing old fencing.
This coming week, fallers and equipment are being mobilized to start work on the north side of the airport. Initial efforts are being focused on CCRD municipal land and other private land while we await an amendment to our licence of occupation that will see areas added to the east and west of the airport.
The public should be aware that a portion of Snootli Creek Regional Park contains trees identified as obstacles. The Big Cedar Trail located by the Beaver Pond will not be impacted, however trails to the north of the Beaver Pond may be temporarily closed while tree removal is underway.
Every effort is being made to minimize the impact of tree removal in the vicinity of trails. The Cottonwood and Spruce identified for removal are very large. While efforts will be made to clean up as much of the debris as possible, there will be a visible impact to the area, especially in the short term. The nature of the OLS survey is such that it cannot detect trees hidden or masked from view by other trees. We know with certainty that there will be additional trees identified for removal as the clearing progresses.
If you have any questions or concerns about the project, please contact myself, Ken McIlwain, at 250-799-5291 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.