omak airport

The Omak Municipal Airport.

OMAK – Water system upgrades, the first step in building an expanded state Department of Natural Resources fire base at the Omak Municipal Airport, will be done during the coming year.

The city council Aug. 5 approved an agreement with DNR for water infrastructure work at the airport.

“This is the day we dreamed about,” said City Administrator Todd McDaniel.

DNR was allocated $1.3 million for the project in the 2019-21 state capital budget for the Omak “fire suppression water flow infrastructure” project.

The project took some creative fiscal maneuvering by the 7th District legislative delegation to get the money included in the state budget. Water infrastructure is needed at the airport before the DNR can build its planned fire base there.

Plans for the base were announced in October 2016 by then-Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.

The facility would allow aircraft to move quickly on fires in the area and throughout eastern Washington, said Goldmark.

A proposal to allocate money for the project to the city went well until the state auditor and attorney general decided last winter that because the Federal Aviation Administration subsidizes the airport, state funding would be off limits, city lobbyist Jim Rowland told the council earlier this year.

That’s when legislators stepped in, renamed the project and made the allocation to DNR.

Under the agreement approved last week by the council, DNR will reimburse the city for design and construction costs, said McDaniel.

He said he is still working with the state Department of Commerce on an appropriation the city received in 2018 for the project. If successful, the city would have around $300,000 to go with the $1.3 million DNR has earmarked for the project.

A $309,000 allocation was made in the 2017-18 capital budget.

JUB Construction, Spokane, will do the design work for the water project, which should be completed by next July, said McDaniel.

DNR proposes an office structure on city-owned land across Robinson Canyon Road from the runway portion of the airport, plus facilities adjacent to the runway. It that would house year-round employees in both non-firefighting and firefighting positions. Water storage also is planned.

DNR anticipates getting money for the base in the 2021-23 biennial budget, said Northwest Regional Manager Ken McNamee.

An estimated $5.3 million is anticipated for construction of the base.

The department will get $108,000 for predesign work in the 2019-21 biennial budget, which went into effect July 1.

McNamee said when the base is built, it probably won’t be as big as the one envisioned by Goldmark, who left office at the end of 2016.

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