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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Port Commission targets airport access

Port Commission targets airport access

Since being purchased by the Greater Lafourche Port Commission in 2001, the South Lafourche Leonard Miller Jr. Airport has seen an increase in business.

Last year saw Chevron move all of its Gulf of Mexico aviation operations to the new air base the company built at the airport. About 82,000 of the 112,000 passengers who passed through the airport during the year were affiliated with Chevron.

With the Chevron deal an example of the growth the airport has achieved, creating greater access to the facility, located on Airport Road in Galliano, has become a key goal for the Greater Lafourche Port Commission.

“With the number of people that’s riding that road to get to all of those facilities at the airport, anything we can do to enhance the access and the safety of that access to Airport Road is critical for the airport and the parish,” said Chett Chiasson, executive director of the Greater Lafourche Port Commission.

To that end, the Port Commission recently donated $100,000 to Lafourche Parish for the Airport Corridor Project. The project will see the construction of a two-lane asphalt connector beginning at the junction of La. 308 and Airport Road. Turning lanes and asphalt shoulders for safer access to airport facilities will also be included.

“The parish and the Greater Lafourche Port Commission have had a history of working together on key projects,” Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle said in a news release. “The Port Commission always participates when additional funding is needed to support economic development in Lafourche Parish.”

The $1.2 million project is being primarily financed by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. In September, the agency awarded the parish a $740,000 grant. The Port Commission’s donation leaves the parish with roughly $360,000 still to secure.

After the commission purchased the airport in 2001, Chiasson said $35 million has been spent on improvements and additions. Around $20 million of that has come from federal and state grants, but the port commission itself has spent $15 million on the airport.

“We’ve spent a lot of money to get it where it is today,” Chiasson said, “and it’s been very successful with several hangars built for private aircraft, and then we have some heliports so rotorcraft leasing has a considerable amount of traffic.”

Part of the improvements included extending the runway from 3,800 to 6,500 feet, widening it from 75 to 100 feet and resurfacing and strengthening the runway and aircraft parking apron to support wheel loads up to 75,000 pounds.

The increased business has also had a positive impact on Lafourche Parish. Chiasson said the airport provided property tax revenues of $3 million in 2015, the last year for which numbers are available. Chiasson said this was before the completion of the Chevron facility so the amount for 2016 should see a significant increase.

The Port Commission also purchased 1,200 acres of land surrounding the airport. Chiasson said this provides the next opportunity for expansion with the building of warehouses, parking, storage and an industrial park.

Chiasson said the Airport Corridor Project providing the first step to better access to the airport is a great example of taxpayer dollars being put to good use.

“It’s good when you can see the people’s tax dollars at work, both from the federal funding as well as from the parish and the Port Commission working together to get something done that’s good for the community. I think any time we can highlight collaborative efforts between federal and local entities, it’s always a good thing,” he said.

-- Staff Writer Jordon Legendre can be reached at 448-7635 or Follow him on Twitter @JordonLegendre.