The 2.97 miles of eight-foot-high fence surrounding the airport is designed to keep deer and other wildlife out. The project is about 97-percent complete, Davis said.
He said a punch list of things to complete is being accomplished.
The first day of work of the 60-day project was April 16.
Davis said the idea for the fence came in the airport’s 20-year-plan in 2006, but lack of funding delayed the project, yet other factors prompted action on completing the fence.
The other plans in that 20-year plan included lengthening the runway by 600 feet and widening it by 15 feet.
But after $490,000 of engineering was completed, the project couldn’t come up with the matching funds needed. So the lengthening and widening was put on the back burner, according to Davis.
“The price of things kept escalating. It was like a dog chasing his tail,” Davis said.
Instead, a $600,000 overlay was done to preserve the 3,800-foot-long, 60-foot-wide existing runway.
And the fence project was greatly helped by donations from 17 different donors. Donations totalled $13,250 toward the 10-percent matching funds from the federal and state governments.
Davis said he is immensely grateful for the help from private donors, public officials –both in terms of money and in-kind services – in seeing the fence project completed.
A big reason for the fence happened in 2008, when a deer collided with an airplane on the runway, Davis said.
“It was a Super King Air 200 of Coastal Aviation Charter Service out of Houston,” Davis said.
“The plane landed from the south going north. It had slowed down where the pilot couldn’t take off again,” Davis said.
The deer came from the side and hit the plane’s prop.
“Nobody was hurt, but it cost $90,000 to fix the airplane, and it was out of service for a month,” Davis said.
He added that people out of San Antonio came down and removed the prop from the plane and took it back to San Antonio.
“They fixed it in San Antonio and brought it back,” he said.
Davis said he’s heard of many incidents of deer strikes on runways in Texas.
But the deer problem is not completely over at the county airport.
Although the fence is keeping deer, hogs and other wildlife out, it also is keeping them in.
“Some residents at the airport have counted 20 head of deer,” Davis said.
“I’ve counted five to seven several times,” he added.
Davis learned there are three options of getting rid of the deer inside the fence.
But Davis said he talked to a game warden and special permits are required when dealing with deer.
The first option involves feeding the deer outside an airport gate. Once the deer get used to eating there, the gate is closed while they are eating.
“This doesn’t eliminate all of them,” Davis said.
The second option is the “Triple T” option: trap, tag and transport.
But professional trappers have to be used, as well as acquiring the permit. Davis said it would be costly.
The third option is to harvest the deer. Again, strict compliance is required pertaining to field dressing and who is doing the shooting. Also required is donating the deer to a needy person, hospital or organization.
In addition, a five-year permit costing $250 is required.
“The deer are a public threat to people on the runway,” Davis said. So one or two of the options will be chosen.
Planned next for the airport is the lengthening and widening of the runway.
“We are in the process of planning this. We hope the people who would use this will fund it,” Davis said.
The runway would be lengthened to 5,000 feet, and it would be widened to 75 feet. The runway would accept up to 30,000-pound aircraft.
“It’s another thing we will have to justify the need for (to get matching funds). We can do that,” Davis said.
The completed longer and wider runway would accommodate about 95 percent of the light business jets, according to Davis.