The exterior of Tooele Valley Airport January 30, 2015. The Salt Lake City Airports Department, which operates the facility, is looking to add new water and sewer services to the important small airport. (Natalie Crofts, KSL.com)
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GRANTSVILLE – Tooele Valley Airport is currently serving as an important facility in expanding the types of aviation services available to the Wasatch Front region and in Utah’s wildfire fighting efforts; however, the small facility itself has no water or sewer connections.
This is largely because it was essentially in the middle of nowhere when Salt Lake City acquired the general aviation airport in 1993. The small airfield is located between Stansbury Park and Grantsville in Tooele County; at the time, none of those cities could offer public services at the airport, says Brady Fredrickson, director of planning for the Salt Lake City Airports Department.
“The county hadn’t developed the system that was close to the airport,” he said in an interview with KSL.com on Friday. “For years and years it was a long distance to bring water or sewer to this facility.”
This may soon change as the population of the Tooele Valley increases. The county’s growth in recent years has resulted in neighboring towns expanding closer and closer to the airport, closing the service gap that has existed for decades.
As this happens, the Airports Department is looking to modify its current budget to add $900,000 so it can design new sewer and water service connections using Grantsville utilities. The request is one of four new budget amendments requested by the department, which also includes shipping a $683 million, 16-gate expansion to Salt Lake City International Airport.
The cost of the Tooele Valley airport project – and the other three – is covered by “landing fees, terminal rentals and other fees paid by airlines”, according to a public document included in the request for budget amendment. The department does not seek funding from the city’s general fund.
“Water and sewer (is) not a very sexy thing to talk about, but something that is really needed,” said Shane Andreasen, director of administration and business services for the Salt Lake City Airports Department, during a presentation with the Salt Lake City. City Council Tuesday.
Why Tooele Airport matters
The Airports Department operates Tooele Valley Airport to help cover all kinds of aviation services outside of Salt Lake City’s flagship international airport. The airfield supports business-related flight and law enforcement/fire/rescue services, such as the Bureau of Land Management’s forest firefighting operations. This is in addition to flight training and recreational flying, such as skydiving.
The department also operates the South Valley Regional Airport in western Jordan as this type of extension as well. Fredrickson said these three airports work in harmony with each other. Smaller airports, in particular, reduce the demand for smaller planes taking off and landing at Salt Lake City International Airport, which opens up airspace and allows the main airport to expand commercial air service.
“We call (Tooele Airport) a diamond in the rough because it’s a very critical airport in the Salt Lake City Airports Department system,” Fredrickson said. “Anything we’re doing here to improve and get more of this recreational aircraft and flight training to move here, or want to move to Tooele, it takes this aircraft out of Salt Lake City International Airspace – and it’s kind of a lifeblood thing for us.”
“He has a lot of potential to expand and serve the community.
–Brady Fredrickson, Planning Director, Salt Lake City Airports Department
Moving firefighting, recreational and educational flying services away from the main airport also makes it easier for small aircraft to take off and land, as pilots do not have to wait for “a bank” of aircraft anymore. big to leave the airspace, he added.
Although it has no water or sewage, Tooele Valley Airport is one of the few airports of its size to have an instrument landing system, according to Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Airports Department. of Salt Lake City. This service gives pilots of small planes a place to land in bad weather, and it allows the small airfield to be a major player in the fight against wildfires in Utah.
The budget amendment request document says the Airports Department recently entered into a 20-year agreement with the BLM so it could remain a launch point for federal firefighting aircraft. According to Andreasen, the airport will house the office’s Single Engine Tanker, or SEAT, operations fleet.
“They’re going to put out fires for a long time in our area, and they’re going to spend over $7 million on this facility in Tooele,” he said.
Water and sewer services may make way for new facilities for firefighting pilots. It also allows for future growth in flight training and recreational flight services. For example, Skydive Utah, a popular skydiving company that uses the airport, has expressed interest in expanding operations in the future, according to Fredrickson.
As he points out, good utilities – like water and sewer – are necessary to grow business. The public document notes that the Airports Department is working with the city’s Department of Utilities, as well as the City of Grantsville and other Tooele County entities on the design. Fredrickson estimates it will cost an additional $9 million to add the facilities once the design is ready in the near future.
But once completed, airport officials believe the diamond that is Tooele Valley Airport has the ability to finally shine.
“It has a lot of potential to expand and serve the community,” Fredrickson said. “I think it will be a very good economic driver for Tooele County if we develop it properly.”
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