Shrimp Habitats Cost Airport Big Bucks

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    A vernal pool fairy shrimp is shown in this undated photo provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

    During the torrential rains that hit San Diego last winter, the habitat of an endangered species created potential danger for aircraft landing at Montgomery Field.

    In early January, the city was under the gun to fix a problem that prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to deactivate part of Montgomery Field's instrument landing system.

    Two weeks of red tape cutting, earthworks and good weather kept the airport from being shut down.

    "When you use this system and you're in the clouds, you can't see anything.  So you have to rely on that.  I don't think anybody wants an unreliable signal out there," said Buzz Gibbs from Gibbs Flying Service.

    And as far as the FAA was concerned this air navigation antenna, known as a Localizer, was putting out an unreliable signal as to the runway’s centerline because it was being deflected by vernal pools that had formed in front of it.

    In times of low clouds, fog and rain, officials felt the safety of instrument landings could be compromised and took it out of service.

    "When you come to the end of the runway, which is basically a mile out there, you're 30 or 40 feet.  So that's the tolerance," said Gibbs. "You want to be precise.”

    So the city got permits from Fish and Wildlife officials to fill and grade the vernal pools, home to the endangered Fairy Shrimp, and get the Localizer on higher ground.

    Two tons of mud containing the shrimp's eggs were relocated to other habitats nearby that wouldn't cause problems.

    The weather cooperated, and operations at Montgomery Field were unaffected while the work was going on.       
       
    "I spent quite a bit of time in the air.  I know what it's like when it's dark and foggy and rainy, to really have to depend on what's out there.  So I'm happy that we got it done and we got it done quickly," said City Airports Division Director Mike Tussey.

    The project cost more than a quarter-million dollars.

    On Monday, the City Council approved taking the money from the Airport Division's Enterprise Fund, revenues from leases and landing fees -- not taxpayer dollars -- to cover it.