An environmental assessment has been completed for the transfer of 170 acres at Heritage Center for a general aviation airport in west Oak Ridge, and the assessment found no significant impact, officials said Tuesday.
The assessment was completed by the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management. The land would be transferred to the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority.
In August, officials said conditions are subject to change, but plans then called for starting construction on the airport at the former K-25 site in 2018. An estimate at that time said the airport could cost between $30 million and $40 million.
The airport would have a 5,000-foot runway that would accommodate general aviation aircraft including corporate jets, private airplanes, and emergency medical services aircraft. A development plan shows the airport at the south side of Heritage Center along Oak Ridge Turnpike, or State Route 58.
Work on an airport master plan was reported to just be starting in August and expected to take 12 months to complete. The master plan will provide more details on subjects like cost and schedule.
The Oak Ridge airport would the third for the MKAA, which would own the site. The other two are McGhee Tyson in Blount County and Downtown Island in Knoxville.
In August, Bill Marrison, president of the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority, said the Oak Ridge airport would be a reliever airport and help relieve congestion at the other two airports. He said McGhee Tyson is at capacity and there is no hangar space available, and Downtown Island has 100 people on its waiting list.
DOE and MKAA officials had a public information session on the proposed property transfer at the DOE Information Center in east Oak Ridge on Wednesday, August 20, and a public comment period ended September 3.
MKAA spokesperson Becky Huckaby said the airport could be funded with a mix of federal funding, state aeronautical commission funding, and local funding from the Airport Authority.
At that time, Sue Cange, manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, said DOE was supporting the request to transfer the land, and MKAA is evaluating the impacts.
“This is just the first step in a fairly lengthy process,” Cange said.
Marrison said many airports around the country are near industrial parks.
“It definitely helps with industrial recruitment,” he said.
Jeff Smith, who is chair of the MKAA general aviation subcommittee, said the airport will complement the other transportation options already in place—a nearby interstate, rail line, and river—and make Heritage Center more desirable. That federal site was built during World War II to help enrich uranium for the world’s first atomic weapons as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, but it is slowly being converted into a large industrial park.
“The primary motivation of this airport is to improve the attractiveness of this industrial park,” said Smith, who is also deputy director for operations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “Adding a general aviation airport basically completes the transportation options that we use today.”
DOE officials said the environmental assessment issued a Finding of No Significant Impact on February 19. The assessment is available here.
In an effort to save resources, reduce taxpayer dollars, and be more environmentally friendly, officials said, the document is being electronically distributed. Hard copies can be viewed at the DOE Information Center, Building 1916-T1, 1 Science.gov Way in Oak Ridge.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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