Master Plan Draft Maps the Future of Regional Airport

Master Plan Draft Maps the Future of Regional Airport

SweetwaterNOW file photo

ROCK SPRINGS – The Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport is updating its master plan and groups are so far receptive to the changes being proposed.
“I think it’s exciting,” Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce CEO Rick Lee said. “I like that we have the leadership we have with this airport board and (Airport Director Devon Brubaker).”

The airport’s master plan study will help guide decisions and create orderly development of future facilities, while acting as a tool for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for planning and programming. It also provides input related to issues involving the National Environmental Protection Act, as well as city and county land use and transportation planning. While it serves several purposes, the master plan isn’t a business plan or noise study for the airport.

Forecasts conducted as part of the master plan process predict the number of commercial air passengers increasing over the next 25 years. Statistics recorded in 2022 show the airport had 16,499 commercial passengers, with that number expected to increase to 20,784 by 2027. By 2047, the airport is anticipated to handle 30,594 commercial passengers.

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Sweetwater County itself is bracing for an economic boom as several developments within southwestern Wyoming are expected to take off in the coming years. Those include TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power’s nuclear power plant proposed in Kemmerer, additional soda ash facilities, and potential carbon capture facilities. With the economic impacts resulting from those projects, more people are also expected to utilize the airport.

It is clear that there is a need for additional hangar space at the airport. Large box airport hangers for future corporate turboprop and jet aircraft are needed, as are smaller hangars to support single and multi-piston aircraft. The airport’s second-highest revenue generator is renting hangar space, with the winter months being the busiest for the airport. For fiscal year 2023, the airport earned $423,926.50 in hangar rental income. Other needs focus on improvements to taxiways and aprons, with additional apron space required to support aircraft parking.

Other facility improvements cited in the draft master plan include an expansion or alteration of the facilities to house larger airport rescue, and firefighting vehicles when they’re purchased.

One of the biggest challenges the airport faces in its development is access to water. Currently, water is trucked to the airport and stored in an underground reservoir. Brubaker said a study is ongoing to provide water to not only the airport but the Arrowhead Springs area along with the proposed Middle Baxter Road industrial complex that has long been an economic development goal in Sweetwater County. The proposed industrial complex takes cues from the Alberta Heartland complex in Canada and is seen as a means of breaking the county away from the economic booms and busts the area has traditionally experienced. The idea of a waterline servicing the area has existed since the 1970s and more recent pushes for a potential waterline extension have been projected to cost more than $40 million. However, Brubaker notes those costs were estimated before the massive inflation spikes seen following the COVID-19 pandemic. The current study will include an updated cost estimate for that project once it’s completed.

Improvements to the airport’s commercial terminal are ongoing. Brubaker said he will meet with FAA officials in Denver on Friday to talk about progress and request additional funding. As far as the ongoing litigation between the airport board and the initial contractor, Brubaker said the trial date was moved to March 2025.
Brubaker said the airport board continues seeking public input on its proposed master plan, which will be used to influence what the final plan will entail. Another public meeting to discuss the master plan will take place in late spring.