Panama City Beach – WEST BAY — Thanks to the news Herald for this update.
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Under increasing pressure as the May 23 scheduled opening of the new airport near West Bay draws near, Airport Authority board Chairman Joe Tannehill is cracking the whip on construction supervisors. An obviously frustrated Tannehill told Jeff Dealy, construction program manager for KBR, that the company must do a better job in providing board members with weekly updates on meeting critical deadlines.
“I had some concerns with some of the punch-list items that were turned in late,” Tannehill said Monday. “I want a regular submittal of those things that are critical.” Although construction of the new $318 million Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport remains “on time and on budget,” Tannehill said, authority board members are entering a decisive period.
Not only must they meet a series of deadlines for the Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Corps of Engineers, but the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a new consent order over stormwater runoff violations.
“I certainly don’t want to be late on anything we have to submit to any of these agencies,” Tannehill said.
Airport officials signed the new DEP consent order Friday detailing new environmental compliance instructions following the silt-laden and permit-busting runoff from heavy January rains. Despite indicating early last week they would need more time to digest the corrective actions, which include over $58,000 in fines, officials signed the decree last week after “working diligently Wednesday, Thursday and Friday” to put a plan in place, Tannehill said.
“They did sign it (by the Friday deadline) and sent it to us by FedEx,” said DEP spokesman Shawn Hamilton. “They did not request an extension.”
As part of the new stipulations, separate from a July 2009 DEP consent order under which the airport is already operating, construction workers must immediately reduce the turbidity (silt) levels of water being held on site and employ a consultant who will supply DEP officials with daily updates. The airport is also required within seven days to stabilize the area around the main access road from County 388 to the rental car facilities, as well as provide a report within two weeks detailing the potential damage to surrounding wetlands if another stormwater breach occurs.
The clock for the various corrective actions, whether seven days or two weeks, will begin when DEP officials sign the returned order, most probably today, Hamilton said Monday. When asked if the DEP might delay the opening of the airport if the consent order was not adhered to in a timely manner, Hamilton said by e-mail that the DEP “cannot speculate on a hypothetical scenario.”
The new airport’s construction has been closely monitored by the DEP since last spring when heavy rains revealed problems with erosion control, resulting in fines of more than $410,000 levied on the Airport Authority, not including the most recent fine.
The DEP has also separately fined Phoenix Construction, the company responsible for site preparation, $1.7 million.
Tannehill said Monday that the airport recently missed by 10 days a self-imposed deadline for the FAA, and both Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines are closely monitoring issues that concern them.
“I think for the most part KBR is doing a good job,” he said, but time is no longer a luxury and board members needed to be better informed.
“There is a lot of pressure,” Tannehill admitted. “A month ago we might have waited a week. We can’t put an eraser and pencil to these dates any longer.”
We are booked on the first direct flight from Nashville to ECP on May 23. Hope to see you at the party!