Elk returned to the Astoria Regional Airport last week, apparently by crossing over the cattle guard put in place to keep them out, said Port of Astoria airport manager Ron Larsen at the port's workshop session Tuesday.

Airport security guards spotted a bull elk and four cows on the grounds, said Larsen, and clumps of elk hair were later found in the cattle guards. The airport had put in a double set of guards to prevent the animals from getting on the property, but they probably stepped carefully across the rods or leaped, Larsen speculated.

"We have to assume that they are still in the airport, and that gives us some concern," Larsen said, although he added that the elk haven't been seen since.

A LearJet struck an elk on an airport runway in December 2002 and caught fire; all four passengers on that plane escaped safely. The accident brought attention to the need to finish construction of an elk fence that now surrounds the facility.

Three months ago, the last time elk were seen on airport property, they were herded out through a gate in the fence, Larsen said. He said he is not sure how the elk will be removed this time, but airport staff and staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Control are working on how to get them out and keep them from getting in again.

Reporting on other news from the airport, Larsen said that a local resident is working to establish a shuttle service between Astoria and Portland, but declined to identify the person.

The port is also applying for loans and grants to fund a $3.4 million project to make improvements to the Lektro facility at the airport, including moving fuel tanks and constructing a water tower.

At Tuesday's meeting, port staff and commissioners also met with Ed O'Sullivan of Barletta-Willis Investments, who is considering developing a marine industrial project in the area and is studying a site to see what uses would provide the maximum value for the property.

"We should become very good neighbors of yours on or by Nov. 15," O'Sullivan told the port. He said he didn't want to give any more information about the project until it was further along.

Peter Gearin, the port's executive director, also told the commission he is hopeful that once Englund Marine commits to a start time for construction at the port, that project along with others whose construction has begun will add enough future value to the urban renewal fund to allow the port to borrow money to begin construction of the conference center.

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