Livingston airport moves closer to reality

Next for Livingston: environment review

Plans for a proposed general aviation airport in Livingston Parish are progressing with state and federal authorities signing off on the project and parish officials moving toward site selection.

The proposed airfield would include a single runway of 5,000 feet to 5,400 feet and would accommodate small, private planes and corporate jets but not large jets, Parish President Layton Ricks said.

The state Department of Transportation and Development’s aviation section and the Federal Aviation Administration have approved the project, Ricks said, and in mid-January the parish entered into a cooperative endeavor agreement with the state Office of Facility Planning and Control to manage the $100,000 in capital outlay funds appropriated for the airport.

Now the parish is moving forward with an environmental assessment, which is expected to be completed by October. The next step will be land acquisition.

“We’re looking at some property south of Interstate 12, between south Satsuma and Walker,” Ricks said.

The parish will be responsible for acquiring the land, but the cost is often eligible for reimbursement through the federal grant process, according to the parish’s airport consultant, Lucien “Lu” Cutrera, of T. Baker Smith LLC.

A 2011 study by LJC Poole LLC suggested the airport would require at least 200 acres, but said 500 acres would be ideal.

State and federal guidelines require new airports to be at least 20 miles or 30 minutes in driving time from existing airports.

Ricks said the area officials are considering is perfectly situated among the Baton Rouge, Hammond and New Orleans airports.

The new airfield would not compete commercially with those surrounding it, but would create an opportunity for economic development, he said.

In researching potential sites, parish officials also considered input from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, a facility in the town of Livingston researching cosmic gravitational waves, to ensure vibrations from the airfield would not interfere with the observatory’s work.

To minimize cross-wind landings, planners want to build the runway in a north-south orientation since most area winds come from the south.

Ricks has hailed the airport as an asset in terms of disaster response.

“It’s always such an issue trying to get to Baton Rouge or Hammond or New Orleans to get supplies or get people in,” he said. “Imagine having an airport that close to hospitals and just north of the southern part of the parish that’s typically hit the worst as far as flooding and evacuation problems.”