Columbia Regional Airport fence intended to block wildlife

Friday, June 24, 2011 | 7:35 p.m. CDT; updated 1:45 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 19, 2011

COLUMBIA — Seeing a deer can be an enjoyable moment, but deer are not a welcome sight to Andrew Schneider or the Columbia Regional Airport crew.

That's why plans are in place to build a 10-foot fence around the perimeter of the airport to prevent wildlife from entering the property.

The wildlife fence was originally scheduled to be built in 2016, according to the airport’s master plan, but Schneider has made it a priority since becoming airport manager in November.

“By being proactive and installing our fence, we’re ensuring we don’t have any accidents,” he said. 

Schneider said the plan is to build a 10-foot tall chain-link fence around the airport's air operations area. The exact length of the fence has not yet been determined.

Schneider said while wildlife has yet to interfere with airport operations, the potential is there.

“We’ve seen deer on airport property. We know they’re there,” Schneider said. “My hope is to get the fence in place before we have a problem rather than having an incident and then dealing with a problem.”

The Columbia City Council approved an agreement for Burns & McDonnell Engineering to begin engineering and designing the fence. According to the agreement, the project will cost no more than $104,015.

Jill Stedem, spokeswoman for the Columbia Public Works Department, said the Federal Aviation Administration will fund 95 percent of the project, and the remaining 5 percent will come from the city’s transportation sales tax.

Stedem said the airport's fence has not been replaced since the airport was built in 1969. She said this fence will be a little taller.

Wildlife biologist Bill Antonides of South Dakota, along with two other biologists, are doing an ecological assessment around the airport for Loomacres Wildlife Management, which is under contract with the city. That study began in August and will be done within two months.

Antonides said the crew spends five days per month surveying the airport property and land within a five-mile radius.

“It was apparent from the very first days and nights of survey work at the Columbia airport that deer were a potential problem,” Antonides said.

The crews also spends time determining what attracts hazardous wildlife to the area and what can be done to eliminate the attractions.

Antonides said fences are the simplest way to prevent large mammals from coming onto the airport’s property.

“A Federal Aviation Administration-approved fence will usually be 100 percent effective at keeping deer from an airfield,” Antonides said. “The airport is safe now, but when the fence is complete, it will be even safer.”

While wildlife biologists try to be environmentally friendly, Antonides said it is important to him to use environmentally and socially acceptable means to protect people.

“We don’t use poisons and lethal control of any kind is a last resort,” Antonides said. “We take care to not cause harm to the environment.”

Although deer and other mammals have kept their presence around the airport, Schneider said airport management has taken measures to prevent them and birds from coming onto the airfield.

“We haze the birds and use tactics to get the birds to go away,” Schneider said. “We do what we can. For example, we mow the grass at certain heights to prevent birds from landing.”

Schneider said there have been no plane accidents related to birds in quite some time.

The fence also will enhance the security of the airport, Schneider said.

Schneider said he hopes to start installing the fence later this year and to finish it before winter. “It’s only a matter of time before the deer decide to make the airport their home.”

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Ellis Smith June 25, 2011 | 2:58 a.m.

Reminds me of when I worked in western Pennsylvania years ago. At times I'd fly from Pittsburgh airport on a scheduled commuter aircraft to either the Dubois or Black Moshannon airports.

On early morning flights at any time of year it was sometimes necessary for the plane to "buzz" the field or some person on the ground in a motor vehicle to run up and down the runway to chase deer away, so the plane could land.

(Report Comment)
John M. Nowell, III June 25, 2011 | 7:49 a.m.

I applaud Andrew Schneider for being proactive. I just don't know why we need to waste tax payer dollars to hire a firm from S. Dakota to tell us what we already know-there are deer in Boone County.

Instead of hiring a Co. from K.C., Mo. to build the fence, why not spend the tax dollars locally and keep jobs in the community? There are plenty of fencing co.s in town, call James fencing for starters.

Government intellegence is an oxymoron.

(Report Comment)
Carra Hansen July 5, 2011 | 11:23 a.m.

I apologize for the late response, but when asked why the city doesn't keep the jobs locally, Public Works spokeswoman Jill Stedem said all of the city's contract work is put out on bid, so it is based off of companies who bid on the projects and the amount they bid.
-Carra Hansen, Columbia Missourian

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