Friday, March 4, 2005
Caltrans: Santa Paula Airport remains closed to air traffic
A state inspection Monday has kept the Santa Paula Airport closed, disappointing news on top of the storm damage that destroyed part of the facility’s lone runway.
By Peggy Kelly
The Santa Paula (CA) Times
A state inspection Monday has kept the Santa Paula Airport closed, disappointing news on top of the storm damage that destroyed part of the facility’s lone runway. Rowena Mason, president of the Santa Paula Airport Association, had expected the recreational airfield to be allowed to open Monday, but Caltrans, the lead agency for the runway issue, balked at reopening the historic airport to traffic. A portion of the initially 2,650 foot runway was destroyed in last week’s storms when the Santa Clara River destroyed part of the bank of the runway’s western portion, cutting into the landing strip. About 155 feet of the bank was destroyed, a loss on the heels of the January storm which eroded 40 feet of the bank, then stopping at the runway’s asphalt edge.
The airport had planned to reopen the runway at 1,220 feet and restrict access to local aviators on a permission only basis. City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that state representatives are being asked to get involved in the issue and help the airport reopen with the shorter runway. Damage from the January storm was estimated at $5 million, but no total is yet available for the latest storm.
The airport was the scene of an emergency effort last week when the latest storm caused the bank just south of the airfield to fall off in chunks, estimated as much as a foot a minute by city officials who also responded to the scene. Tons of rock, concrete and other fill were dumped onto the runway and then pushed over the bank in two locations to redirect the raging waters and shore up the edge.
The airport damage is believed to have a foothold in the Santa Paula Creek project. The project, completed several years ago, caused an alluvial fan to be created just east of the airport following the record five-day January storm; the presence of the fan split the river channel in two and redirected the bulk of storm waters directly into the airport bank. In addition, there was a surprise and sudden release of waters by Pyramid Dam, which feeds into Lake Piru and then into the Santa Clara River.
An additional problem common to rain-drenched California is that the series of storms has left the earth sodden, and runoff has reached extremely high levels.