Castlegar’s mayor says he’s optimistic the federal government will approve the city’s proposal to improve reliability at West Kootenay Regional Airport, but it probably won’t be in place before early 2023.

“The work on developing routes for lower ceiling landing has all been done and tested,” Kirk Duff says. “It’s now in front of Nav Canada and Transport Canada for approval. It will probably take the better part if not all of 2022. It’s a slow process that involves multiple disciplines within the federal government. It does take time because a few exemptions are required.”

But Duff hopes that in a little over a year the new routes will be made available to airlines.

On Monday city council approved a plan to repay a $1 million interest-free loan from the Columbia Basin Trust over 25 years from fees charged at the airport. That money was used to develop the lower-ceiling landing approach the city has submitted to the federal government for approval.

“We’re feeling pretty confident but it still is a risk,” Duff says. “We don’t know absolutely what Transport Canada or Nav Canada will say.”

However, Duff says the company they hired, GE/Naverus, has worked with the federal agencies before on similar projects. The company has designed take off and arrival lanes at airports across Canada and is familiar with the approvals required.

“This is a major foundational piece for our entire economic plan for Castlegar and area,” Duff says. “When we get these routes approved it means we can stop saying Cancelgar and start saying just West Kootenay Regional Airport.”