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Decades in the making, the new airport south of Las Vegas is back on track

Map of location of Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport overlaid on a Google Map of the area south of Las Vegas.
Map of location of Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport overlaid on a Google Map of the area south of Las Vegas.

There's a new airport on the way south of the Las Vegas Valley. Ahead of our discussion on Thursday, here's what you need to know about it:

  • Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport (SNSA), previously known as  Ivanpah Valley Airport, is a new commercial airport in development by the Clark County Department of Aviation 23 miles south of Las Vegas along Interstate 15 between Jean and Primm.
  • The airport is intended to provide long-term aviation capacity for the Las Vegas metropolitan area primarily serving domestic, international, charter and cargo flights.
  • The new airport site covers an area of 6,000 acres and an additional 17,000 acres of land that are set aside as a compatibility buffer, making the new airport site over 23,000 acres.
  • SNSA will be the second international airport serving Southern Nevada along with Harry Reid International Airport.
  • Officials are expecting Reid to reach its full capacity of 63 million passengers annually by 2030.
  • Construction of SNSA is expected to begin by 2029 with completion by 2037.
  • The new airport will be the single largest public works project in the history of Nevada.


A supplemental airport has been in the works for more than two decades. But, how come the project is finally making headway now?

Clark County Senior Director of Aviation, James Chrisley, said recessions were partly to blame at first. But, Harry Reid International Airport's increased activity due to the state's recent booming sports and tourism economy is the main impetus for the new airport.

"Our 2023 record of 57.6 million passengers showcases a growing demand, and as we look to the future with the [Oakland] A's now on the docket, and talk of an NBA team, this transformation to the sports capital of the world is really drawing more demand to our destination and airport system," said Chrisley.


Officials have estimated a construction cost of 12 billion dollars, but potentially billions more in infrastructure costs surrounding the airport.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers unanimously approved Senate Bill 19 to allow Clark County to put aside 5,000 acres or more off Interstate-15 between Jean and Primm, as a new town for the airport.

Additionally, the airport would be located more than 30 miles away from Las Vegas, which tourists and locals could find inconvenient.

All this leads to the challenge of transportation infrastructure surrounding the airport, especially when you consider the strain it could have on the already busy I-15 Highway. Chrisley said the county is aware of the possible challenges, and are working on finding solutions.

"In addition to the 23,000 acres for the airport, there is a half mile wide transportation utility corridor that goes from the top of the north corner of the airport site, all the way to Sloan on the east side of 15," said Chrisley. "There's the ability to add transportation corridors, sort of like the Washington DC model connecting DC to Dulles Airport. So, we have the ability to connect the airport without having to get into the I-15 traffic. We also meet with the Nevada Department of Transportation on a regular basis to ensure our planning is in line with what they're planning."

Clark County Commissioner, Michael Naft, whose jurisdiction falls on the airport site, also mentioned the County is looking at all transportation options; even something like light-rail.

"I think it has to be part of the discussion. It would be the prudent environmental, financial, and common sense thing to do," said Naft. "I think even given the urban location of Harry Reid International, we wish there were more opportunities to get people in and out of that airport with mass transportation."

This past December, the project also moved out of the planning phase and on to the environmental review phase. Entities like the Federal Aviation Administration and the Bureau of Land Management are in charge of reviewing the environmental impact the airport could have on Ivanpah Valley.

Ivanpah is no stranger to big projects though. Most notably the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility was completed in 2016; but received some pushback from environmental activist organizations that led to changes to its construction.

Still, there are concerns the supplemental airport project could displace valuable wildlife and plant life in the valley like the already threatened desert tortoise species, and the rare, white margined penstemon wildflower.

Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin Director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said that while fighting for environmental conservation in Ivanpah Valley is not a lost cause, the odds are not in conservationists' favor.

"Ivanpah Valley has very important biodiversity value, and we need to really consider how the airport is going to negatively impact that," said Donnelly. "But, by the time an environmental impact statement process starts, the decision has already been made to permit the project. It's a question of how not whether. When the BLM start an environmental impact statement, they never choose to deny a project."

Donnelly continued,

"In addition, it's more complicated because Congress already decided about this airport since they transferred the land through congressional action. And, no matter how many times you sue somebody, you can't undo the act of Congress. The question now is, what sorts of mitigations are going to be in place to address these really significant environmental impacts?"

The question of how the airport will impact locals on and near Ivanpah Valley is also up for debate.

Stephen Staats is the owner of Pioneer Saloon in the small town of Goodsprings, Nevada. He said the project could impact their local tourism economy.

"You have good and bad. You'll have maybe some people in the area that might want to go have lunch, but then on the other side, you'll have some people not wanting to come out here because it's extra traffic," said Staats. "One thing too that people love about the Pioneer Saloon is how it's isolated in this little town, out in the middle of nowhere. If it's considered part of Las Vegas, it will lose a little bit of that lore. We also do a lot of film and music video productions. Producers like to come film at the Pioneer saloon, because there's no airport traffic overhead. But, if you have a giant airport out there, that'll take that away. And, certainly the traffic issues is something to address."

Staats continued,

"As far as growth, I think there are two frames of thought. If you're a property owner you might say 'hey, maybe my property values go up,' but a lot of us in good springs are on fixed income and we rent. And I think those folks will not be as happy about about the growth and their little friendly quiet town being infringed on. However, I think it's just a matter of time before Las Vegas moves south towards Los Angeles and eventually connects with the rural areas out there."

Guests: James Chrisley; senior director of aviation, leadership member, Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport Project; Michael Naft, commissioner, Clark County; Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director, Center for Biological Diversity; Stephen Staats, owner, Pioneer Saloon

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Christopher Alvarez is a news producer and podcast audio editor at Nevada Public Radio for the State of Nevada program, and has been with them for over a year.