Water continues to be the biggest challenge for Villeneuve Airport, members of the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce heard on March 8.
Steve Maybee, vice president of operations at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA), said that while on-site waterlines are almost up and running, supplied water continues to be a barrier for expansion.
Villeneuve Airport is a satellite airport of the EIA and provides aviation training, charter flights and a space for recreational aircraft.
“Right now Villeneuve Airport is on its own separate reservoir. We truck in water every day to supply the line out there,” he said.
Villeneuve Airport has an expansion plan divided into three phases, to be fully completed over the next two decades. So far the airport has 23 aviation-related businesses on site and plans to take on more light commercial businesses in a second phase.
If the airport completes its third phase, Maybee said it could bring economic value to the region, with pilots flying into the airport from across the world for training. Those who fly into Villeneuve could eat, sleep and potentially shop in St. Albert.
It would also bring more businesses and jobs into the region. There are currently 100 direct jobs connected to the airport, and if phase three is fully implemented, over 1000 jobs could be added.
“We’ve had some interest in light commercial but without water supply, businesses just cannot operate up there. So that is a key challenge for us, something that we’re working hard at changing in the next couple of years,” he explained.
He added that business interest in the airport has decreased slightly due to the economy, but it’s starting to pick up once again. Once the demand is there, he said they would move forward into the second phase.
However, in order to move forward a water pipe will need to be built connecting Villeneuve Airport to Sturgeon County’s water reservoir. The pipe would be around two kilometres in length.
In a follow-up interview, Maybee said engineers from EIA are working with engineers from the county to figure out how much the water pipe would cost.
Collin Steffes, manager of community and regional planning for Sturgeon County, said in an interview that formal conversations between Sturgeon County and EIA regarding the water pipe were put on hold in the fall.
He said that council needed to have a clearer understanding on the servicing requirements, growth potential and staging needs of the Villeneuve Airport.
“We weren’t getting clear indications on what those needs were so rather than go ahead with a land use plan that may be errant in our assumptions, we’ve put the project on hold,” he said.
“We’ve continued informal discussions with Edmonton Airport on how best to get a clear picture on what their exact servicing needs are.”
In 2015 Sturgeon County applied for two grants, one of which was around $5.9 million to cover the costs of expanding existing water services at Villeneuve, including the water pipeline needed for the airport.
Unfortunately the grants weren’t approved. Steffes said even if the county starts planning for the pipeline, he’s unsure when construction could actually begin.
“The grant we applied for, we weren’t successful so it’s not like we have that money sitting around right now,” he said.
Steffes said when there is a clear idea of the airport’s needs, the county would be open to apply for grant money once again, and plans for the pipeline may accelerate.
Last year Villeneuve Airport had around 55,000 aircraft movements, mostly by small aircraft. The Villeneuve Airport helps the EIA by keeping flight training and smaller craft away from having to compete against bigger airlines at the international airport.