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Thread: Willoow Lake Closure

  1. #1
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    Default Willoow Lake Closure

    Many people are aware that there has been a push to close Willow Lake to seaplanes. These attempts have failed so far but now DOT has decided to close it to ski operations. Willow lake has allways been a popular ski plane lake and in the spring when the snow is gone from the airport many people move to Willow Lake for spring bear hunting. Willow Lake will now be the only lake in the Mat-Su Valley closed to ski planes, but it is the only lake owned by DOT that is managed for aircraft operations. That is hard to believe but true. Willow Lake is also part of Willow Airport and recieves money from the FAA for all the land it manages including the lake. Something is wrong here.
    As for the part 77 surfaces. These are slopes and clearances that are used at airports and very few lakes have these clearances. Willow Lake does not have part 77 surfaces for float operations either. All you have to do is read between the lines and you will see that when the lake is closed for ski operations because of part 77 surfaces it will soon be closed for floats also.
    If Willow Lake can be closed how many other Lakes can be closed for the same reason? How many air strips can be closed? This is only the beginning if we let this happen Alaska will become just like the lower 48 where you can only land at airports. If you care about aviation in Alaska help us fight this closure.
    I am a commercial operator that leased airport ground off of DOT that was reserved for a commercial carrier only. I was assured Willow Lake would never be closed to summer or winter operations. I have been operating there since 1997 and built a large hanger. I am now out of business in the winter since you can not cross the highway on streight skis. I never thought that the state of Alaska would ever be against aviation but it seems they are leaning that way.
    I am enclosing the letter from DOT so everyone will know where to send letters to. Thanks

    Thank you for your email. As you know the Willow Winter Carnival organizers recently indicated they plan to hold various recreational events on the lake during the carnival weekends, and advocated constructing an ice airstrip for a winter fly-in during this event. Their application, in combination with your stated intent to build an ice runway on the lake, has prompted us to look into your authority to erect an ice airstrip.
    We spoke with the FAA regarding of winter operations on the lake, and it is their recommendation that for clarity’s sake we close the lake for winter operations and update the Supplement and Master Record to reflect its closed status during the winter. Their primary concern is that a ski strip erected on the lake would fall under FAA-regulated Part 77 airspace rules, and airport compliance would take some time to establish. This would include a survey of threshold ends, elevations and coordinates. DOT&PF is not prepared to establish such compliance at this time. However you could apply with the FAA by submitting a FAA Form 7480-1 “Notice of Landing Area Proposal” for a temporary strip to be used in the winter.
    Closing the lake for the winter season, when access across the ice is easiest for the public, will help ensure conflicts are minimized and promote a safer environment. We believe this is a necessary safety measure for the current season given the lake’s location in the center of Willow and the high demands for the lake during the winter months. We will be researching and developing a winter use policy for the lake and will consider the possibility of opening an ice airstrip, provided it can be made FAA compliant, in the future.
    The Willow Airport is maintained to accommodate ski operations during the winter; therefore the land based airport provides a location for your business to operate in winter months.

    Sincerely,
    Josh Briggs
    Aviation Safety & Security Officer
    State of Alaska DOT
    Central Region Airports
    Office: 907-269-0754
    Cell: 907-748-2885

  2. #2

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    Well, this sucks! Thanks for the heads up so we can get the word out. Thanks for the name/address of the DOTPF person to contact.

  3. #3

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    Are we sure DOT owns the lake, not just the land around the lake???

  4. #4
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    Default Willow Lake is ok for everbody!

    If there was not 100 lakes all around it we could call this a problem.
    But this lake has been used for community events in winter for over 50 years.
    It has 1000s of snowmachine useing a section line easement straight across the lake.
    Nevermine all the other things on that lake in the winter.
    Someone had a small strip in for a couple week in mid Dec. from the island north.
    Use it wisely.
    And don't forget ther is a great ski strip at the main airport.
    Also a lot of planes like the groom trail down the middle of Long Lake.
    This will not stop you from landing there.
    Trail Boss
    Willow Trail Committe
    ALASKA'S Winter Park Cabins
    To boldly make trail where no man has gone before!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
    If there was not 100 lakes all around it we could call this a problem.
    But this lake has been used for community events in winter for over 50 years.
    It has 1000s of snowmachine useing a section line easement straight across the lake.
    Nevermine all the other things on that lake in the winter.
    Someone had a small strip in for a couple week in mid Dec. from the island north.
    Use it wisely.
    And don't forget ther is a great ski strip at the main airport.
    Also a lot of planes like the groom trail down the middle of Long Lake.
    This will not stop you from landing there.
    The other strips are fine but if your hanger is on willow lake you have to take off there before you can land somewhere else. Also airplanes have been on willow lake for over 50 years also and if DOT rents aviation lots and calls willow lake an airport then they can't close the lake to aircraft.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aviator13 View Post
    Are we sure DOT owns the lake, not just the land around the lake???
    Yes the lake is owned by DOT. It is one of 7 in the entire state that were set up for aviation.It was given to DOT in 1962 by DNR for the purpose of making it an airport. DOT has no problem collecting its lease fees for its" Aviation only " lots on the lake. Lake hood is also one of the 7.

  7. #7
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    Exclamation No use now!


    I have not seen more than a couple of dozen landings a winter.
    Once more the strip is across the street.
    And is being use by those people now cause it is smooth and has fuel.
    And has no overflow issues.
    No people running all over the place.
    I wonder why all the locals use the strip and not the lake?????!!!!!!
    We will all get through it!
    Trail Boss
    Willow Trail Committe
    ALASKA'S Winter Park Cabins
    To boldly make trail where no man has gone before!!!

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    It seems like a simple solution to establish and properly identify a winter landing strip. There's plenty of room for everyone. Most folks I see around Lake Hood enjoy seeing aircraft ops. Willow people are no different. Establish separation and go on with life.

    Willow aircraft operations pre-date Willow winter carnival or Iditarod activities. Perhaps the pilots ought to hire an attorney to establish customary use. There are lots of other lakes for dog mushers, too. Like Wasilla lake, where the Iditarod is supposed to start.

    One of my favorite things about Alaska has always been that folks usually support the activities of other folks. That Willow residents have pushed for exclusion of one user group on Willow Lake is a dangerous trend. How long before somebody decides snowgos are too loud and the lobby to get rid of those? Old Alaskans would have fought such a closure because they objected to governmental control. I guess Willow has changed. I guess I'll spend my "passing through" dollars elsewhere.

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    The exclusion of "one user ", ie Willow Air, will allow for the other users to use the resource. Right now they are being excluded from using the lake.

    Dog mushers use to reign free in Anchorage. Stuff changes, ask Earl Norris and hundreds of others. People move in...its not a free for all any more. Get over it, move on.

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    Further, to the comments by the DOT guy in the initial post, State law already provides for the protection of temporary winter strips. The notion that the FAA must become involved in order to establish approaches, etc, is incorrect by how I read the law.

    AS 02.20.050. Obstructing Airports and Runways.

    (a) A person may not place an object on the surface of a public use airport that because of its nature or location might cause injury or damage to an aircraft or person riding in the aircraft.
    (b) A person may not dig a hole or make any kind of excavation, or drive a sled, tractor, truck, or any kind of vehicle upon the surface of a public use airport that might make ruts, or tracks, or add to an accumulation of tracks so as to cause sufficient roughness of the surface to endanger aircraft using the airport.
    (c) All acts prohibited in (a) and (b) of this section also apply in their entirety to a temporary airport or runway that has been marked out on the frozen surface of a stream or lake for the use of aircraft.
    (d) Unless closed for public safety reasons by a notice to airmen (NOTAM) provided to the Federal Aviation Administration or by publication in the appropriate aeronautical charts and publications published by the Federal Aviation Administration, unless closed or restricted under the authority provided in AS 16.05.050 , 16.05.251, 16.05.255, 16.05.270, AS 16.20.010 - 16.20.162, or 16.20.500 - 16.20.690, or unless closed or restricted under authority consistent with AS 38.04.200 or AS 41.21.020 (e), navigable water in the state or a suitable landing site on public land that is not subject to a surface lease, easement, or permit issued by the Department of Natural Resources is presumed open for operation of aircraft.

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    AS 02.20.050. Obstructing Airports and Runways.

    (a) A person may not place an object on the surface of a public use airport that because of its nature or location might cause injury or damage to an aircraft or person riding in the aircraft.
    (b) A person may not dig a hole or make any kind of excavation, or drive a sled, tractor, truck, or any kind of vehicle upon the surface of a public use airport that might make ruts, or tracks, or add to an accumulation of tracks so as to cause sufficient roughness of the surface to endanger aircraft using the airport.
    (c) All acts prohibited in (a) and (b) of this section also apply in their entirety to a temporary airport or runway that has been marked out on the frozen surface of a stream or lake for the use of aircraft.
    (d) Unless closed for public safety reasons by a notice to airmen (NOTAM) provided to the Federal Aviation Administration or by publication in the appropriate aeronautical charts and publications published by the Federal Aviation Administration, unless closed or restricted under the authority provided in AS 16.05.050 , 16.05.251, 16.05.255, 16.05.270, AS 16.20.010 - 16.20.162, or 16.20.500 - 16.20.690, or unless closed or restricted under authority consistent with AS 38.04.200 or AS 41.21.020 (e), navigable water in the state or a suitable landing site on public land that is not subject to a surface lease, easement, or permit issued by the Department of Natural Resources is presumed open for operation of aircraft.


    That Alaska Statute gives all the more reason why the lake should be closed to aircraft. It simply is not safe for the aircraft to be operating on a lake with so many people boating, fishing, snomachining, etc on it.

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    In general I oppose closures of customary activities. Reasonable people should coexist reasonably.

    In this case I'm being excluded, too, as is every other ski pilot, so it isn't limited to Willow Air. I'm not interested in groomed ski strips on gravel. Most pilots I know would agree with that. I wouldn't expect non pilots to understand the reasons why.

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    They close Lake Hood to skis when they feel like it too, but that doesn't stop ski-plane operations... Just because FAA says they wont sponsor a "real" strip doesn't mean that someone cant put in a regular winter strip just like on most other Mat Valley lakes in the winter.

    I agree with Mr. Pid, "reasonable people should coexist reasonably".

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    Member dkwarthog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    I agree with Mr. Pid, "reasonable people should coexist reasonably".
    X2

    I'm just not sure that WA is capable of "coexisting reasonably" based on my limited interaction with them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dkwarthog View Post
    X2

    I'm just not sure that WA is capable of "coexisting reasonably" based on my limited interaction with them.
    WA has used Willow Lake for ski operations since it had been on the lake with no problems. We only have a small strip that leaves plenty of room for everyone else. We have never objected to dog mushers or snow machines on the lake. In fact without snow machines we would not be able to groom the strip. The winter carnivalo uses the lake and they are the ones that asked DOT if they could build a strip for the carnival. That is when DOT said it was not possible then later decided to close the lake for skis alltogether. DOT needs to make a decision what they want to do with Willow Lake you can't lease lots for aviation then tell them they can not land on the lake.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post

    I have not seen more than a couple of dozen landings a winter.
    Once more the strip is across the street.
    And is being use by those people now cause it is smooth and has fuel.
    And has no overflow issues.
    No people running all over the place.
    I wonder why all the locals use the strip and not the lake?????!!!!!!
    We will all get through it!
    Again I guess you still do not get the point. When a person builds a hanger to keep their planes in in the winter they need to be able to use it. There is no way to get accross the highway to use the strip. That is one of the reasons you do not see a lot of take off and landings by us in the winter. If we have multiple trips and a lot of gear to haul we take off from Willow Lake and land on the airport strip and haul from there for the day then land on the lake in the evening to put the plane back in the hanger. We also do guided spring bear hunts in April when the strip is no longer useable. Other guides also move to Willow Lake in April to do their hunts. I still think everyone can use the lake and get along but it seems like you feel that is not the case. The problem is that DOT has given me a contract to use the lake and build a large hanger. The only way they can close this lake is to buy out all leases that use the lake. This will include some of the leases on the strip since they get business from the lake. If this becomes too spendy for DOT they might go the other way and make the lake aircraft only and ban everyone else. I think everyone who uses the lake should try to support each other so DOT does not have to make that decision. I have allways supported the trail committe since it gives people a way to get from their house to all the public land this state has to offer. I am very disapointed that you can not support us in the same manner.

  17. #17
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    Default Get a grip!

    Again you still can use the lake. Who will stop you?
    Nobody!!
    And if you do a non paid take off and go to the strip they can't say a thing.
    Trail Boss
    Willow Trail Committe
    ALASKA'S Winter Park Cabins
    To boldly make trail where no man has gone before!!!

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    Who or what is the real underlying reason for what is going on there?
    Floatplane,Tailwheel and Firearms Instructor- Dragonfly Aero
    Experimental Hand-Loader, NRA Life Member
    http://site.dragonflyaero.com

  19. #19

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    Karma? If he has "Legal papers" to use Willow Lake, AND the State is willing to "take" on that fight. Either he's wrong, or the State wants WA to go somewhere else. Or, maybe they just want to make it a "Dog Park" like Lake Hood.

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    The comparisons to Lake Hood are a little off base but may offer a clue. Lake Hood and Lake Spenard are incorporated into a tower controlled state airport and that includes maintenance of the lake for aircraft operations. Willow Lake is not (that I'm aware of). The DOT's "closure" of Willow Lake may legally define that they aren't responsible for aircraft operations/surface conditions on that lake but that may not prohibit operations at the pilot's own risk.

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