Joint Land Use Study for Proposed UAS Corridor Underway

Viewpoint Column by Doug McKinney, NCRPC Executive Director

Since the Civil War, Fort Riley Army Base has been a key component for national defense training. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Kansas has been at the forefront of aviation exploration. After all Kansans Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna, Lloyd Stearman and Amelia Earhart were some of the greatest aviators and quite innovative in their day. Today, Kansas is taking the lead in unmanned aerial system (UAS) research and development. Fort Riley, Kansas State University Polytechnic and the Smoky Hill Weapons Range are a large part in that.

North Central Regional Planning Commission is working with Flint Hills Regional Council to complete a Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) that will support the UAS home station training. The research project is funded in large part by the U.S. Department of Defense. There are six unmanned systems at Fort Riley. The U.S. Army is looking for and needs to find safe and realistic training areas beyond the tight confines of the base. The Route Phoenix corridor links Fort Riley with the Smoky Hill Range in western Saline County. This is the first such training sector in the nation.

The JLUS research will examine this corridor and potential impacts vertically from the narrow high elevation flight path to the ground below. This effort will help identify potential new regulatory and non-regulatory measures to encourage compatible land uses within the study area. Recommendations will be offered for both military and civilian partners. Options such as noise attenuation standards, air space height standards, land exchanges, land acquisition, development incentive programs, conservation easements, transferable development rights program (TDRs), performance standards, special overlay zones, and special procedures for reviewing developments with potentially substantial impact within the study area may be explored.

The work is necessary to gain Federal Aviation Administration support for Fort Riley aviation training programs. It will greatly enhance maneuverability and increase readiness. North Central Kansas committee members represent each county of the corridor. Stantec Consulting has been engaged to provide JLUS expertise. Public meetings will also take place allowing for additional input from local citizens. The results should prove beneficial to Kansas and the nation by late 2019 and beyond.

This column appeared in the January 2019 NCRPC Newsletter.