The Moore County Airport Authority announced Wednesday it has received a large grant from the North Carolina Department of Transportation for repairs to airport facilities. The goal of the grant is to repair of several miles of old underground drainage pipes which are leaking and undermining the runways and taxiways.
The grant is for a total of $1.3 million, 90 percent of which will be paid by the State and Federal Government. The remaining 10 percent will be funded by the Airport Authority from funds generated by Airport Operations. No county funds or local taxpayer monies will be used for this project.
Airport Manager Ron Maness expects the project to begin immediately and be completed by mid-May, weather permitting.
The repairs will improve storm water drainage at the 550-acre airport. Some of the drains and pipes date from the early 1960s when the runway was first paved. In 2015, the Airport used robotic cameras and ground-penetrating radar to conduct a census of all the underground drains.
The inspection determined the pipes are all either corrugated steel drains or brittle concrete or terracotta pipes. They range from six inches to four feet in diameter. Many were found to be in perilously degraded condition. The grant sought funding to repair about 1.5 miles of the most deteriorated underground pipes.
“Overall, the pipes were in better condition than we feared, it wasn’t a worst-case scenario,” Maness explained. “But some of them are really, really old. There are cracks and leaks everywhere.”
Based on the preliminary study, the project was approved by the County Commissioners in 2016, the grant was submitted in 2017 and the State responded positively in Autumn 2018.
“The process of creating and winning these grants is a complex and time-consuming task,” said Airport Authority Chairman Tom McPherson. “Many airports in the State are fighting for these funds. But our team was able to submit a really well-researched and well-documented plan that caught the eyes of the Dept of Aviation. It was an awesome piece of engineering and staff work.”
The repair process will be fascinating because it will be an invisible process. Removing and replacing all the old pipes would cause substantial damage such as ripping up runways and parking areas. Instead, the contractor will make all the repairs underground.
The plan is to coat the inside of the existing pipes with a plastic gel which hardens in place. The gel is extremely strong, hard and smooth. Because the new surface is smooth, the flow rates of the drain pipes are improved even though the pipes are narrowed slightly. The gel also prevents leaks and stops roots from growing in to system. Manholes and access points will be inspected, repaired or replaced as required.
Airport operations will be unaffected. Another batch of repairs will be scheduled for early in the next decade.
Moore County Airport is a vital part of the State’s transportation network and a major contributor to the local economy. According to the State Dept. of Aviation, the local airport contributes $71 million to the region’s economy and bolsters local tax revenues by more than $1 million.
“Although it mostly works in the background, Moore County Airport is one of the foundations of economic growth and opportunity for the residents of Moore County,” explained McPherson.
General aviation airports are a vital part of the U.S. transportation network. Grants for airport improvements are common, with most of the funds going to the seven big commercial airports in the State. Moore County Airport hopes to garner several more grants for new hangars, upgraded taxiways and runway improvements before the middle of the next decade.
No public airport in the State supports itself without government assistance; it is noteworthy that the Moore County Airport is one of the few airports in the State with a reserve fund of sufficient size to afford these drainage repairs. This fund allows the Airport to pay the remaining 10 percent of this project without assistance from the County.
Feature photo: Airport manager Ron Maness examines one of the 50-year old drain pipes which collect rainwater and remove it from the airport before the water can cause sinkholes or damage the runways. Most of these drain pipes have flowing water even in the driest of seasons.