There is a sufficient demand for a new airport in the Cowichan Valley, according to a study prepared by Dillon Consulting Ltd.
But its success would depend on whether the airport’s owners, whoever they would be, are successful in obtaining up-front capital for development, and the strength of the marketing of the airport to attract tenants and create revenue.
Based on a number of assumptions, the study demonstrated that the total cost of a new airport would be approximately $20 million.
“While the analysis demonstrates that an airport would be feasible, it is only feasible if an appropriate site can be found adjacent to a major road close to the new hospital, that $7 million is accessed for the start-up capital, and that the community supports the construction of the new airport,” concluded Patricia Maloney, a project manager for Dillon Consulting, in the report that was presented Oct. 23 to the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
“Additionally, sufficient demand for industrial land is required as a primary revenue source to support the airport’s ongoing operation.”
The report recommends that current and future regional planning initiatives undertaken within the CVRD consider the potential benefits of a multi-use regional air transport facility which, along with commercial uses, would also provide essential air services, including air ambulance, search and rescue, emergency evacuation, and forest fire response.
“If the CVRD’s board believes that this study has demonstrated the merit of the construction of a Cowichan Valley airport, the next step is to investigate potential locations, complete community engagement and complete the studies to determine the actual ‘developability’ and costs of the selected site,” Maloney said.
The report envisions an airport with a 3,500-foot paved runway that would serve smaller commercial aircraft, such as the King Air 350 which holds up to 11 passengers, among its uses.
The CVRD commissioned the report in January to determine the current status of air transport in the region and what will be required to meet growing demands.
The only existing airstrip currently operating in the Cowichan region is on Langtry Road and is leased to the Duncan Flying Club by the gravel company Butler Brothers, but that airstrip is predicted to have a finite life span due to its location and the long-term resource needs of the gravel company.
The report also pointed out that while most residents will agree that an airport will provide benefit to the community as a whole, the people who live near the future airport may object to the noise, traffic, and perceived safety issues of developing a new airport close to them.
The report was received by the CVRD’s regional services committee, but for information only and no action was determined at this time.
CVRD board chairman Ian Morrison said he thinks the report provided the committee with some excellent information to consider.
He said he’s in favour of increasing the district’s transportation infrastructure.
“But I have no inclination at this time on whether it should be privately or publicly run, or its location,” Morrison said.
“Some more thinking has to be done on this issue.”