Airport stormwater system

The Jackson Hole Airport’s new and improved stormwater filtration system, pictured here while under construction, cost about $2.5 million.

It was all accolades Tuesday for a $2.5 million stormwater filtration system that now captures and conveys the bulk of the water running off of Jackson Hole Airport’s impervious surfaces.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the facility attracted Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, Grand Teton National Park Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail and even Rob Wallace, who is top brass at the U.S. Department of Interior.

“The underground stormwater retention filtration system is a key example of the forward-looking abilities of the board and staff here,” Noojibail told a gathering.

The project came about, he said, without any direction from the National Park Service.

“It was done on your own volition,” Noojibail said, “and that’s very impressive to us.”

The airport’s assistant director of operations, Dustin Havel, said the new stormwater disposal system replaces a network of dry wells that once received runoff from the airport’s pavement and concrete.

“Now,” he said, “100% of that goes down here.”

The system Havel stood before and that everyone was there to fete is discreet. Its conveyance components are mostly subterranean, and its above-ground terminus is tucked away at the southern edge of the airport’s developed footprint past Jackson Hole Aviation’s facilities.

It looks like an industrial spigot at the end of a crook-necked pipe, which discharges rain and snowmelt into a bed of boulders. Before getting there, however, the stormwater is filtered for oil and sediment so that the outflow is a step closer to pure water before it percolates through the soil into the groundwater feeding the Snake River alluvial aquifer.

Residents of the subdivisions and ranches west of the airport draw their drinking water from wells that tap the same aquifer.

“This acts a little bit like a septic system, but not,” Havel said. “It’s basically encapsulated. They call it a ‘burrito wrap’ and it’s welded together, so everything has to run through the filter layers before it discharges.”

The airport constructed the new system while it was overhauling layout of the “landside” portion of the airport, including the public parking lot. That term describes the side of an airport terminal where the general public has unrestricted access.

The stormwater system’s capacity should be able to take in and filter what hits the ground during a 100-year storm event, Havel said.

The airport cobbled together the approximately $2.5 million needed to design and build the stormwater infrastructure using an array of funding sources, including Federal Aviation Administration airport improvement funds, a Wyoming Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division match and a grant from the Teton Conservation District.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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