It’s been a long time coming, more than a decade, in fact, but the new extended runway project at the Devils Lake Regional Airport is finally nearing completion.

It’s been a long time coming, more than a decade, in fact, but the new extended runway project at the Devils Lake Regional Airport is finally nearing completion.

An idea that was first determined over ten years ago, the new runway is now a shining example for regional airports across the country.

The runway is now 1,800 feet longer than it was before construction began, and in addition to that, the Devils Lake Regional Airport also features brand new, state-of-the-art navigation aids, tools that line the runway and assist pilots in preparing to take off or land their aircrafts.

“And for an airport our size, that’s a pretty sweet deal,” said John Nord, who has served as the airport’s mananger for the last five years.

The completed project will also feature new lights and new signage, making the runway brand new in a number of aspects.

Though most of the heavy lifting is already completed, there are still a few things that need to be done before the project can be declared 100 percent completed.  

Nord estimates that the project is about “98 percent” done.

“Now, we’re finishing it,” Nord said. “At the end of this year, we’ll have everything done with the exception of our punchlist items, which will have to be completed next spring.”

The items Nord mentioned are merely minor side projects alongside the runway, projects that are expected to be completed by spring at the latest.

All involved with the Devils Lake Regional Airport are thankful for how well things have turned out for the new runway facility, because at one time, the fate of the runway was very much in question.

Human remains conflict
In late May, the discovery of human remains near the runway expansion project stopped airport construction in its tracks, prompting the summons of a state archaeologist to determine how old the remains actually were.

The archaeologist declared the remains to be somewhere in the range of 300-500 years old, leading him to believe that the remains were most likely Native American.

Thankfully, both parties (the tribes involved in overseeing the runway project as well as airport officials leading it) were satisfied in how the situation panned out.

The airport conferred with the tribes’ wishes to have the remains be undisturbed and allowed to rest in peace, and the runway project was allowed to carry on at full steam. The only changes that needed to be made to the airport’s projects were a few modifications to where fencing would be placed.

The burial mound has since been restored to its original state, and despite the frequent work being done around that site, the mound remains undisturbed.

Government shutdown
Since the burial-mound conflict, the runway project has been allowed to continue as planned. However, another cog was thrown into the works in recent weeks, a cog which has since been displaced and resolved: the federal government shutdown.

The shutdown surely affected other areas of the country more harshly than it did in Devils Lake, but at the town’s Regional Airport, the lack of government presence at the federal level further delayed the development and accredidation of the new runway facilities.

Diligent FAA testing is required in situations like this: where new machines and technologies are installed at an aitrport which directly impact a pilot’s ability to effectively operate an aircraft.

Before the shutdown went into effect on Oct. 1, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had scheduled flight checks for the first and second weeks of October, according to Nord. But with the government not open for that first week, Nord and his staff were unsure how long it would be before they received their FAA inspection, which is required before the facility can be published.

Thankfully for the local airport, FAA representatives from Oklahoma City, Okla. reached out to Nord, telling him that they would be able to inspect the new facilities in Devils Lake despite the government shutdown.

Inspections began the second week of October and continued on Tuesday as the FAA looks to determine the safety and functionality of the new equipment at the airport while also establishing reference data for each runway end.

Once FAA checks have been completed and all necessary statistics and figures have been collected, inspectors will submit their findings to the government for consideration over a period of 60 days, which at this point would lead government officials to have a decision made about Devils Lake by mid-December.

According to Nord, things are going very well.

“All the little adjustments are being made,” Nord said, “and by the time they leave, everything should be good to go.”