Joseph Airport overcomes permitting hurdles to sell fuel

Pictured in a concrete and neoprene catch basin, Joseph Airport's Fixed Base Operator Ray Potter plans to be selling Jet A fuel and aviation gas at the airport by early May. Photo by Rocky Wilson

The Joseph Airport, which regularly draws in from 10 to 20 airplanes daily in the fair weather months from June through September, could well be serviced by a private fuel dispensary beginning in late April or early May.

The fueling pad and catch basin are in place, and all that remains is the arrival of $30,000 worth of equipment, including a 10,000 gallon split tank which will hold equal amounts of Jet A fuel and 100 octane aviation gas. Once the equipment arrives it will be in service in the following four to five days, says Joseph Airport Fixed Base Operator Ray Potter who will own and operate the private fuel business.

The Jet A fuel is for small Lear jets which can easily land at the mile-long runway, and for helicopters.

Being able to sell fuel at the airport has been the goal of Potter for the past two years as he struggled in the permit process with Wallowa County, the city of Enterprise and the Department of Environmental Quality. The fact that Enterprise's primary source of water is near the airport slowed the permitting process.

Once Potter cleared the permitting hurdles the Oregon Department of Aviation, which owns the airport, began work on the 70' x 70' fueling pad and the 24' x 50' catch basin. The fueling pad slants toward the catch basin, where the fuel tanks will be placed above ground, and the catch basin is lined with a non permeable neoprene diaphragm layer. Any spills will be washed into the catch basin and cleaned up with a special mop.

The Department of Aviation invested $100,000 in the project and Wallowa County another $32,000, according to Commissioner Mike Hayward, to prepare the site for fuel sales.

Potter, who runs a free shuttle service from the airport to any place in Wallowa County, is of the opinion that many more sightseers will fly into Wallowa County once the fuel is made available.

Aviation gas is sold at the Enterprise Airport, but not Jet A fuel because the airport is considerably shorter.

The fueling pad and catch basin were completed in December of 2002, but Potter did not order his split fuel tank until he was the recipient of a $10,000 lottery grant from the Northeast Oregon Alliance. In addition to the tank he ordered a multi credit card cardlock, a gas pump system which can pump both types of fuel at the same time and dual 50' hose reels.

Never before a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) of an airport, Potter says that he did run two service stations simultaneously in his younger years. But most of his resume comes under the heading of cowboy. Before running a cattle ranch near John Day from 1974 to 1999, Potter worked as a registered sheep and cattle cowboy in the Ione/Colville area in Washington state.

He and wife Gail began an art gallery during their latter years at John Day. They called it the Strawberry Wilderness Art Gallery, a name they brought with them to Wallowa County in 1999 when they built and started the Strawberry Wilderness Bed and Breakfast and Art Gallery directly across the Hurricane Creek Highway from the Chief Joseph Days rodeo grounds in Joseph.

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