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Grand Canyon Airport Upgrades Raise Concern of Conservation Groups


The public comment period for the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Five-Year Plan ends next week. It includes an upgrade to the state-owned Grand Canyon National Park Airport. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, conservationists have raised concerns about the project’s potential effects on the Canyon.

The airport project will allow for larger jets to land more often. Groups like the Sierra Club and the Grand Canyon River Guides say the spike in air traffic will increase overflight noise at the Grand Canyon. They also say drilling of new water wells within the plan could damage the South Rim’s ecology.

Alicyn Gitlin is with the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter.

“We know that there are multiple models that show that more wells dug in the Tusayan area will deplete the South Rim springs at Grand Canyon, and that is unacceptable,” Gitlin says.

The airport’s manager Michael Thomas says the project is merely an upgrade to the existing 50-year-old terminal, and is necessary to comply with federal standards.

“There’s no plans at all for any expansion. I don’t see any increase in large aircrafts coming to the airport. Our signage is outdated, our electrical system is outdated. We are being very environmentally conscious about it,” Thomas says.

About $2.5 million of the more than $25 million needed for the airport project will be covered by state and local governments. If the plan is approved, work could begin next year.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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