N. Idaho airport is eligible for federal funding
2:20 PM, Feb. 26, 2012 |
SANDPOINT, Idaho (WTW) — The Federal Aviation Administration has put the Sandpoint Airport into tentative compliance, making the airport eligible for federal airport improvement money, Bonner County commissioners in northern Idaho said.
The federal agency placed the northern Idaho airport on its non-compliance list in late 2008 after the county granted a perpetual through-the-fence access easement to a residential fly-in community called SilverWing without federal approval and then didn’t solve the problem.
The FAA said that could hinder airport operations and cause safety hazards.
The Bonner County Daily Bee reports (http://bit.ly/yPnOtP) the result was the airport ended up not being eligible to receive discretionary and non-discretionary funding to make infrastructure repairs.
Officials say a state transportation study found the airport contributed $33 million to the local economy.
“I think that got people’s attention — that that’s an economic engine out there,” said Chris Popov, a member of the Sandpoint Airport Advisory Board.
He said some of the problems still exist, but the county is working to restore its credibility with the FAA.
“It’s happening, but it’s happening slowly,” Popov said.
The FAA has contributed more than $5.3 million in airport improvements since 1982, but late in 2008 said the money was being cut off for up to three years because the county approved the upscale, fly-in housing development.
SilverWing told the county last year it might file a lawsuit if officials didn’t solve the compliance issue.
The midfield access is still a problem, the newspaper reported in a story on Tuesday, and the county has received a Gem Community grant to help figure out a possible solution.
Another problem involves access fees required by the FAA, and county officials are discussing that with west side landowners. Objections to the fees remain.
“But everybody’s continuing to talk to each other and they’re trying to work something out,” Popov said.
County Commissioner Lewis Rich said the county doesn’t control whether to charge access fees.
“That’s a mandate by the FAA. It’s not a matter of what the local control wants to do,” Rich said.
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