MILTON — Saratoga County this week received confirmation of the first of two expected federal grants to pay for the $6.3 million in upgrades it wants to make in around the Saratoga County Airport.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Tuesday said Saratoga County will get $2.61 million for Phase 1 work, which entails a wildlife fence. It is one of hundreds of Federal Aviation Administration grants totaling $1.2 billion for work at 405 airports in all 50 states and six territories. The various projects will improve airport infrastructure and also boost the regional economy, the DOT said.
The county began planning the airport fence project last year and expects that it will be funded entirely by the FAA. Normally, the FAA funds 90 percent of an airport infrastructure project while the state and the entity that owns the airport each pay 5 percent, according to the county. Under a stimulus spending package Congress approved in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FAA is funding 100 percent of the work.
The county expects funding for the remainder of the $6.3 million project to be announced soon. If it is not for some reason, Phase II will be put on hold.
Saratoga County Commissioner of Public Works Keith Manz said Wednesday the project stems from wildlife studies and was included in the most recent Environmental Assessment of the airport.
A Wildlife Habitat Assessment conducted in 2014 found deer, foxes, coyotes and other wildlife on airport grounds. A 2016 plan created in response called for the existing 4- to 6-foot fence to be upgraded.
The current project entails a 10-foot chain link fence with a 2-foot high barbed-wire topper.
It will encircle the airport property, excluding a wooded area on the north side of the airport as well as the airport entrance and the parking area. Pedestrian and vehicle gates will be installed to allow access to the fenced areas.
GB Hastie Fence Co. of Agawam, Massachusetts, will be contracted to do the work.
Another aspect of the fence project entails creation of 120 acres of Karner Blue butterfly habitat in the towns of Wilton and Northumberland. The airport itself contains Karner Blue habitat that would be diminished by this project, through increased mowing.
This latter detail has proved controversial with some nearby residents and those concerned about the rare butterfly.
In 2019, the FAA signed off on the plan, saying it found no significant impact likely to arise from the details.
The project as currently planned stretches into 2022.