The Federal Aviation Administration started its physical process of helping secure closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport on Thursday when a technician removed some of the lighting located at the end of the runway.

The airport’s runway end identifier lights were removed as a step of the closure process.

“The FAA contacted us,” City Administrator Travis Dierker said. “It’s part of the (closure) bill to have those lights removed and decommissioned.”

REILs are installed at airports to provide rapid and positive identification of the approach end of a particular runway. The system usually consists of a pair of synchronized flashing lights located laterally on each side of the runway threshold. REILs may be either omnidirectional or unidirectional facing the approach area.

Dierker said the other runway lights at the airport remain intact and functional, and that the facility remains open.

“This is just one step of the closure process,” he said. “This is part of the FAA’s procedure to close the airport.”

President Barack Obama signed a bill last December that ordered the closure of the 80-acre facility located on the north end of the city. However, the bill outlined a process that needs to be followed.

Also included in the process is an environmental assessment, which the city currently is addressing.

The assessment is a process of estimating and evaluating significant short- and long-term effects of a program or project on the quality of its location’s environment.

In October, the board of aldermen passed an ordinance regarding that assessment. It will be completed to address potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed improvements and identify protocols for permitting and mitigation that would be required for project components.

“Back when the (airport closure) bill was passed, one of the stipulations was a National Environmental Policy Act environmental assessment had to be done on the property,” Dierker said at the time. “We did a RFQ (request for qualifications), and a scope of work was drafted and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Missouri Department of Transportation.”

The ordinance authorized Mayor Ron Blum to sign an agreement with Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Inc. for the assessment of the airport property. It includes verbiage that states the agreement meets all criteria needed for reimbursement to the city from the FAA at the final closeout of the airport.

The total cost of the assessment will not exceed $171,147.37, Dierker said. All funds will be reimbursed to the city by the FAA when closure occurs.

On Dec. 18, 2014, Obama signed Senate Bill 2759. It stated that it is “a bill to release the city of St. Clair from all restrictions, conditions and limitations on the use, encumbrance, conveyance and closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport.”

Additional language in the bill provides details regarding the closure process and the transfer of assets, revenues and equipment as well as the monetary value of the property and the worth of the unamortized federal grants turned over to the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Association.

And, a section also indicated that the land must meet the requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

For years, city officials have been working with the FAA and MoDOT on the closure process.