Commission ruling protects Austin runways from power line

October 15, 2008

Plans to build an extensive new power line won’t interfere with operations at Bird’s Nest Airport near Austin, Texas, thanks to a ruling by the state Public Utility Commission.

The panel ruled that structures near Bird’s Nest Airport must be built to avoid any interference with the new or existing runways at the airport. High-voltage power transmission towers will have to be built at “less than typical heights” to avoid conflicts with runway approach surfaces.

“We are pleased that the commission’s final ruling is supportive of airports,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of local airport advocacy. “Establishing guidelines that protect runways helps ensure that individual airports can live up to their full potential as vital elements in the national aviation transportation system.”

AOPA has been working on this issue since November 2007, when the Lower Colorado River Authority announced plans for the high-voltage power transmission tower route that would potentially impact the airport. AOPA requested, and was granted, the right to represent general aviation in the legal proceedings related to the proposal. As a result, AOPA provided numerous legal briefs supporting the airport, seeking changes to the routing of the line, and advocating for buried lines or shortened towers near the airport to avoid interference with the field’s planned instrument approach.

Bird’s Nest represents the first viable replacement for two important general aviation airports that were closed in the Austin area nearly a decade ago. Last month, Austin zoning officials granted a needed variance to allow construction to begin on a new 6,025-foot runway at Bird’s Nest.