Birds Spark Battle Between Airport, Developers

By: Jennifer Bocchieri Email
By: Jennifer Bocchieri Email

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A battle between the airport and a developer over a proposed project brings a renewed focus on passenger safety.

Developers want to turn land at 55th Street South and Tyler Road into a sand extraction site. Part of those plans include a new 30 acre pond.

Unfortunately, the pond will likely attract birds. Since it's only three miles south of Mid-Continent's runways, those with the airport fear for passengers safety.

It's an issue that landed both sides before county commissioners.

"It's our determination the project if permitted to move forward as designed would create a man-made wildlife habitat and attractant that may create an undue hazard to aircraft approaching," said Airport Director Victor White.

Between 1990 and 2007 pilots have reported more than 82,000 bird strikes nationally. At Mid-Continent there have been more than 100 during that time.

Over the last 18 years there have been more than 1,300 incidents of engine damage caused by bird strikes. In the past 12 years bird strikes have caused 16 fatalities.

While developers don't dispute the possible bird dangers, they say there's already large surfaces of water surrounding the airport and their pond won't make a difference.

"We would not significantly attribute to the increase of migration of birds to this area. The entire area is na attractant to birds in the first place," said Russ Baughman, a representative for the developer.

And while two commissioners don't buy developers arguments the plans ended up passing the commission as a whole.

"All the existing water seems to me a more compelling problem than anything we would put down south right now," said County Commissioner Tim Norton.

Those with the airport are now focused on coming up with a master plan for future development around Mid-Continent to make sure a cases like never come up again.

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