This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
CEDAR CITY, Utah (AP) -- Parowan Airport Manager Dave Norwood first noticed Utah prairie dogs scurrying around the airport about 25 years ago, but it's only recently that the threatened rodents have started to endanger the runway.
"It's just gotten to the point that it's ridiculous and someone is going to get hurt," Norwood said, adding that the prairie dogs are burrowing through the runway asphalt and creating potentially dangerous situations.
No one really knows what will work because it hasn't been done before so we don't know if we'll have a concrete wall or recycled tires. We're going to look at different proposals.
The Spectrum of St. George reports that Parowan will now receive a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help build a prairie dog barrier along the runway. The roughly $280,000 from the federal agency, along with about $50,000 from the Utah Department of Natural Resources and another $50,000 from Parowan, will be used to construct about 5,000 feet of barrier along both sides of the runway. The potential plan is to bury it eight feet deep to keep the prairie dogs from being able to burrow beneath the asphalt.
"We're breaking new ground and making educated guesses on how to do the project," said Parowan City Manager Shayne Scott. "No one really knows what will work because it hasn't been done before so we don't know if we'll have a concrete wall or recycled tires. We're going to look at different proposals."
Officials hope the project will not only protect the runway, but also the prairie dogs, which are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. The state Division of Wildlife Resources removed 123 prairie dogs from the airport in July, alone.
"We were supportive of Parowan exploring a fence option," said Reed Erickson, Utah Prairie Dog Recovery Implementation Program chairman. "UPDRIP did a little coordinating with the project but credit really goes to Parowan City and Fish and Wildlife for addressing the safety concerns and getting something off the ground."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)