City authorizes land surveys on former airport

Updates planned for Walesboro Drain on west and south sides

The city of Columbus has hired a firm to perform land and boundary surveys of the former Walesboro Airport, a step that could open the property for further development.

The Columbus Redevelopment Commission hired Independent Land Surveying of Brownstown for a tributary topographical survey of the airport and the Walesboro Drain for an amount not to exceed $7,500. The city is looking to make improvements to the Walesboro Drain on the west and south sides of the former airport property, said Jeff Bergman, city-county planning director.

The commission hired a Columbus-based engineering firm, Landwater Group, two years ago to determine if some or all of the airport could be removed from a floodplain. The Federal Emergency Management Administration previously determined the area to be in a floodplain.

Landwater Group has been working with FEMA, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in preparing a new flood model with the goal of removing a portion or all of the Walesboro Airport from a floodplain.

The information from the topographic survey and report will be used by Landwater Group to conduct a new flood model of the Walesboro Airport property, according to the commission.

Bergman said the last time a floodplain map was updated was in 2014, although he noted the topographic survey will help the city determine whether it wants to move ahead with possible improvements on the property. Bergman said the goal is to ensure the floodplain map is as accurate as possible.

He estimated the topographic survey would be completed within a few months.

“We need a little better data to make sure we have the best map possible,” he said. “The city has a compelling interest, considering it’s city-owned property.”

Meanwhile, the commission on Monday also hired Independent Land Surveying to perform a property boundary survey of the Walesboro Airport for an amount not to exceed $4,000. The move is one of several steps necessary to release a national emergency use provision on the property by the Department of Defense, which has oversight, airport director Brian Payne said.

The city owns 740 acres on the Walesboro property, where companies such as AK Tube and Faurecia have land leases.

“We want to make sure we’re going through all these processes to make sure we can sell it,” Payne said.

The city also will have to seek approval from the Federal Aviation Administration if it plans to sell the property, he said.

Silver Jackets report

The Silver Jackets, a group of state and federal agencies studying the East Fork White River, is expected to make a report during the Columbus Redevelopment Commission’s 4 p.m. May 15 meeting, said Heather Pope, city redevelopment director.

Bob Barr, a research scientist at IUPUI, will discuss the group’s findings, specifically addressing the modeling of the river with and without the low-head dam.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com