A new approach - Second water tower may be back on the table

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A planned 140-foot second water tower in southern Le Mars may still be a possibility.

To make it so might mean a shift in how air traffic comes into and leaves Le Mars.

Earlier this summer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told the city the water tower couldn't be built as planned because of the air hazard it could pose to the Le Mars Municipal Airport.

The FAA stated that a water tower in that location -- 24th Street South and Sixth Avenue West -- couldn't be taller than 86 feet.

Now city officials are looking into an option that would allow the city to build the 140-foot tower there.

City Administrator Scott Langel said the airport could require pilots to only approach and take off from the airport from the west.

The proposed water tower site is to the east of the airport.

The idea is this: if air traffic isn't accessing the airport from the east, then a water tower to the east of the airport would be less of a hazard.

Langel told the Le Mars City Council this week that switching to a west-only approach could possibly impact the FAA's earlier determination not to allow the 140-foot tower.

"If it's west only, then FAA -- as far as hazards are concerned and what gets put into the flight books -- isn't nearly as complicated as if it's 'any approach goes,'" Langel said.

Since the Le Mars airport's inception, air traffic has been able to access and leave the airport from both the east and west.

However, considering a west-only approach to the airport was originally suggested in a 2005 FAA review, Langel told the council.

Councilman John Rexwinkel noted that this isn't an unheard of idea -- Ankeny's airport has an east-only approach.

Le Mars' airport manager Earl Draayer filed the paperwork to switch Le Mars to a west-only approach, Langel said.

An FAA representative then initiated a new study on the water tower proposal, Langel said.

"From the indicators we're getting ... it sure looks very, very favorable that we could get a west-only approach, and if we do that, then the hazards that are east of the runway are not nearly as substantial," he said. "And that's the key word we're trying to take off the determination, that it's no longer a substantial hazard."

The process for this study will take 90-120 days, Langel said.

In August, after receiving word the FAA was not going to allow a tower higher than 86 feet at the site, the city council chose to reject all bids on the water tower and the associated water booster station.

After hearing about the west-only airport approach option Tuesday, the council rescinded that motion and voted to extend consideration of those bids for another 90 days -- to Dec. 23.

If the FAA allows for a 140-foot water tower and the council chooses to accept bids for the tower and booster station, the project would likely be planned for spring of 2014.

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