Los Alamos County Airport (photo courtesy Dane Spearing, copyright 2001)
The Department of Energy (DOE) has concurred with AOPA's request that the federal agency suspend its landfill project at Los Alamos Airport (LAM) in New Mexico. At a high-level meeting this week between AOPA and senior DOE officials in Washington, D.C., the department committed to put the project on hold for 90 days and to address the concerns of airport users before proceeding with the cleanup of the old airport landfill.
"Joe McMonigle, chief of staff for Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, and himself a pilot and AOPA member, brought the right parties together," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of Government and Technical Affairs. "And we can say that pilots' perspectives are now being addressed."
From the late 1940s through the 1960s, Los Alamos County and DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory used airport property as a landfill. The old site poses an environmental hazard and is the subject of a long-running negotiation between DOE and the state of New Mexico. DOE's original cleanup plan included encapsulating the trash in a 9-foot-tall berm paralleling the runway.
LAM sits on top of a mesa, where winds can by tricky. With a field elevation of just over 7,000 feet and a runway length of 5,550 feet, plus a requirement that pilots land on Runway 27 and depart from Runway 9 regardless of wind conditions, there is little margin for error. Local pilots were concerned that the berm could create hazardous wind shear and protrude into what should be protected airspace.
Interestingly, DOE's director of aviation management also was concerned with the project because the DOE regularly flies a Twin Otter into LAM on agency business.
AOPA joined the New Mexico Department of Transportation in urging DOE to suspend the October start date for the project until its impact on aeronautical activities could be properly evaluated.
DOE has agreed to do just that.
In the meeting this week, AOPA also asked DOE to include a pilot representative in meetings reviewing the project and to hold a public meeting to talk to local pilots about changes to the project.
October 7, 2004