Rocks threaten to block port expansion

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MOSES LAKE — The Port of Moses Lake’s plan to build a multi-purpose structure on the other side of the Grant County International Airport’s main aircraft parking area has run into a fairly sizable obstacle.

Actually, a bunch of obstacles. Giant rocks. Underneath the runway.

According to information presented at a recent meeting of the Port of Moses Lake Commission, the amount of money necessary to bore a hole underneath the runway to connect a sewer line is nearly double the $400,000 the Port initially estimated.

“We got one valid bid,” said Port Executive Director Jeffrey Bishop. “It was $640,000.”

The cost was so much higher, Bishop told commissioners, because test drilling found the rocks at a depth of seven feet below the taxiway are significantly larger than expected, requiring a much bigger boring hole.

The port is drilling a tunnel underneath the taxiway in order to avoid the cost of ripping up and replacing the entire concrete surface.

Bishop said a second estimate of nearly $900,000 came in as well.

The tests were conducted because the Port is considering building a hangar, office and small living complex on the opposite side of the aircraft parking area from the main terminal for potential use as a testing or training center by private customers, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy.

Richard Muller, director of port operations, said it may be possible to find another place to drill, or simply to build the proposed facility without a connection to the port’s sewer system and pump the septic tanks “every now and then.”

Electricity and water are currently run out to what port officials call “the infield” — the area between the runways — but the area does not have a sewer connection.

Port commissioners also approved accepting a $164,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to repair portions of Taxiway G — the taxiway right in front of Boeing and Genie — because of damage done over the last few years by heavily laden Forest Service DC-10s taxiing out for takeoff.

“They tore it up during the heavy fire season,” Bishop said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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