PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — For years, the state Aeronautics Commission has discussed challenges that tall structures such as wind turbines and radio towers present for pilots flying in South Dakota.

Now the panel, whose members are appointed by the governor, is looking to municipal and county zoning regulations as a possibility for more of South Dakota’s public airports to be better protected.

Of 56 public airports in South Dakota, 34 are in locations without zoning, according to a 2020 survey of airport managers that state Department of Transportation staff discussed with the commission Thursday.

Independently verifying the survey’s results has started. Meanwhile, state Transportation Secretary Joel Jundt told commissioners he’ll bring recommendations to their October meeting. He wants to first talk with some consultants and develop a strategy.

Said Jundt, “It’s going to take some time.”

A chapter of South Dakota law calls for airports to be zoned and the state commission can withhold funding as a penalty.

Dave Howard of Winner was one of the airport managers who called into the meeting. Winner owns the regional airport, known as Bob Wiley Field, which is in an un-zoned rural area. Howard said city officials wants zoning there, but Tripp County officials generally haven’t been interested.

Eric Odenbach of Eureka, the state commission’s chair, said he encouraged Eureka and McPherson County officials to look at zoning for that area’s public airport.

“I know it can be done,” Odenbach said. “I know it can happen, because it’s happening here for the Eureka airport.”

Rapid City Regional Airport executive director Patrick Dame offered that the state commission could send letters to counties and airport sponsors, suggesting they start looking at zoning and letting them know that more guidance would be coming.

The Rapid City airport receives official notifications from Pennington County to which the airport staff can respond. “You’re able to put in a comment on whatever you think should or shouldn’t be there,” Dame said.