Published DateGILFORD — After a year-long wildlife study conducted for the Laconia Airport Authority by the United States Department of Agriculture, the plans for the completion of a fence that encompasses the entire airport is now before Gilford's Conservation Commission.
The reason the Conservation Commission must be consulted said airport manager Diane Cooper-Terrill, is because there are five wetland areas that must be crossed for the circumferential fence to be complete.
Cooper-Terrill said this is Phase 3 of the fencing project and has been part of the Authority's Master Plan since it was adopted in 2003. She said Phase 1 is the fence along Lily Pond Road and the second phase is by the outer side of the terminal.
"The last phase is to completely enclose the airport," Cooper-Terrill said.
She said the fencing recommended by the USDA will extend four feet underground in the area dry areas and two feet deep in the wetlands areas. The 6-foot high chain link fence will be anchored by 4-foot deep posts anchored in concrete.
She said the FAA's top concerns recently involve wildlife management and she said there have been recorded deer strikes at the Laconia Airport but "fortunately none of them involved any personal injury."
Cooper-Terrill explained that the depth of the fence is to prevent burrowing animals from accessing the airport. She said burrowing animals are ofter prey for larger predators like coyotes and bobcats. The report also said turkeys are a problem for the airport as well.
The report also indicates that a vegetative-free buffer zone on either side of the fence should be maintained whenever practical.
Cooper-Terrill said the biggest wildlife problem faced by many airports is birds in general and Canadian geese in particular, for Laconia.
The USDA report recommended keeping the grass moved to 6 to 10 inches so the grass height is a deterrent to birds by keeping rodents well hidden from their sight. In addition, small predators like fox, raccoons and skunks are deterred by long grass. The recommendation is to move grass to shorter than six inches only where it is required by the FAA.
Open areas not covered by grass, read the report, should be covered by asphalt or crushed gravel when possible.
The report also recommends an "aggressive harassment and shooting effort towards bird and mammals using pyrotechnics, propane cannons, dogs, remote controlled airplanes and electronic scarecrows.
In some cases, read the report, lethal methods of eliminating wildlife are appropriate, including limited and controlled uses of high-powered rifles from high elevations.
The report also said Lily Pond represents a "significant" hazard to the Laconia Airport because ducks like to land atop the runway lights and spread their wings after diving for fish.
Cooper-Terrill said the project, which has not gone out to bid, will be largely funded by federal airport improvement grants that are funded by user fees and supplemented by the state airport improvements funds — also funded by user fees, and the Laconia Airport Authority.
After a review by the Conservation Commission, the application will be forwarded to the Department of Environmental Services.