Two towers inch above FAA height rules
At the request of the Storm Lake City Council, the Storm Lake Airport Commission voted Monday 'to do nothing' about two wind towers that are scheduled to be built within the southern landing approach to the Storm Lake Municipal Airport.
Commission member Tom McClinton said that "city hall had asked the commission not to petition the Federal Aviation Administration in an effort to change the status of proposed wind towers that lie within the landing approach at the airport, from 'obstructions' to 'hazards.' "
He told the commission that it was his opinion that the city council and the commission had a good working relationship and the commission should try to maintain that.
"City Hall has asked the commission not to petition the towers," McClinton said.
"So if we vote to do nothing, we will be complying with their request. We will be neither endorsing nor opposing official actions."
That change would have required Clipper Windpower, the towers' developer, to move or lower the towers.
McClinton explained that if the towers had been found to be hazards rather than obstructions, the FAA would have 'circularized' them.
In circularizing a hazard, the FAA sends out circulars to users of an airport asking for feedback on a hazard, he said, if circulars come back asking the FAA to act on the hazards then it or they have to be moved,
But, in order to act on an obstruction, the local airport and users of the airport must petition the FAA to re-examine its studies and then the agency will rule on whether or not it will circularize a structure.
McClinton explained to the commission members that one tower, No. 57, was, as proposed in Clipper's plan, one foot higher than the FAA's rules for obstructions within a NDB, or non-precision, landing approach.
Wind tower No. 58 was six feet taller than the FAA standards.
The two proposed towers would sit within a radius of four nautical miles of the airport.
After explaining the height difference at the beginning of the meeting, McClinton asked if the commission should hold the wind power developer to the FAA standards.
"Clipper thinks we should just overlook these 'slight' differences, but if we are required to score a 75 on our flight tests and we score a 74, should we get a pass?" he asked rhetorically. "Do we hold Clipper to the standards set by the FAA or not?"
The commission also discussed, as it has in the past, the problems with landing at the airport, noting that since most pilots land without Global Positioning System aid and "in the soup, things can rapidly get out of hand making an NDB landing."
As one board member pointed out, there is no northern approach to the airport because of the towers put up near Alta.
"From the git-go this has been an instrument approach question," McClinton said. "We know we can't predict the 'what-ifs' of flying, anymore than anyone can predict the what-ifs of driving."
Neither the state of Iowa nor the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors and its zoning board have done anything different than use FAA rules for the airport, McClinton said.
"That makes us duty-bound to accept FAA rules and regulations," he said. "We know there are 16 petitionable towers in BV and Sac County, but we've been asked by City Hall not to petition them."
McClinton said that the commission has four options in dealing with the towers.
"We can petition the FAA, we can do nothing," he told the commission. "Or we can take the position of accepting the finding of the FAA and g on record as accepting that or we can table the whole thing."
In the end, the commissioners decided to maintain their ties with city hall, and do nothing.