As of Friday, February 9, 2018
The seldom used airport in Cascade Locks could get improvements or an entirely new purpose, according to strategies the Port of Cascade Locks and state aviation staff are taking a look at.
Over the last few years, officials have mulled options for enhancing the airport’s safety — or changing course and swapping its role for a non-aviation need, ranging from light industry to housing.
On Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Marine Park Pavilion, the port commission will hold a town hall meeting to hear public comment, ideas and concerns regarding the state-owned airport on Forest Lane.
The Oregon Department of Aviation website describes the airfield as a “little used but important emergency strip, centrally located in the scenic Columbia Gorge.”
The port, partnering with Gov. Kate Brown’s office and the ODA, is spearheading an effort to do a feasibility study regarding the airport. The study is funded by a state grant and the federal Economic Development Administration. The port has also put funds toward the project.
“The purpose of the study is to determine the most effective uses for the airport property,” Port General Manager Paul Koch said via email.
The port retained ECONorthwest, a Portland-based firm, for the project. At their Nov. 2 meeting, the Port Commission approved a roughly $75,000 contract for the airport study with ECONorthwest. Before that, the port also earmarked $25,000 for a local match toward a grant for the study.
Port and state leaders haven’t yet settled on whether the airfield needs to be repurposed — the study will make the path ahead clearer. A steering committee will guide the process.
Last summer, ECONorthwest sent a response to the port’s RFP (request for proposal) for an “Analysis of the State-Owned Airport Facility” in Cascade Locks.
The consultant team includes subcontractor Century West Engineering, which did a similar re-development study for the Vista Field Airport in Kennewick, Wash.
ECONorthwest’s report detailed the airport’s status as an emergency site. The landing strip gets use from small planes during inclement weather. Airborne vehicles can arrive quickly and unpredictably in the Gorge, it said. Otherwise, the airport has few take-offs or landings, no commercial usage, and no services for aviators, the firm noted.
Cascade Locks Airport was created in 1948 with funding from the states of Oregon and Washington, along with the federal government. It occupies 37 acres on the east end of town.
The report stated Cascade Locks has grown recently, but its growth will become “increasingly constrained” by its scarce supply of buildable land. The city is bounded by the Columbia River and Mt. Hood National Forest, as well as Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area terrain.
ECONorthwest noted the port desires an objective analysis for the site.
Koch said the Feb. 22 meeting will gather comments and data that will be “folded into the study effort by the consultants.”
A port newsletter notes, “The full study is just now getting started, so the opportunity to be heard and express an opinion is very important.”
In other construction and development news at the Port of Cascade Locks:
Two new Herman Creek Lane industrial flex buildings are nearing completion.
“Flex 2” is fully erected, a port newsletter explains, with some interior and outdoor work remaining. The building should be prepared for tenants by mid-March. Also, the roof is being installed on “Flex 4” The port intends for that building to be tenant-ready by the end of May.
The Marine Park Pavilion will get some attention, part of the port’s annual enhancement plan, from Feb. 26 to March 18. The pavilion floor will be re-surfaced and sealed.
Dredging at the Marina — which happens every couple years — will take about a week, starting Feb. 21.