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Bryan lobbies FAA for Tahoe Airport

Michael Schneider

Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., reaffirmed his support for the Lake Tahoe Airport Tuesday when he met with Federal Aviation Administration officials to ask for continued federal funding.

Bryan met with Jane Garvey, FAA administrator whose administration has decided to stop funding the airport’s control tower staff effective March 1.

The senator said that while he didn’t get a promise to continue funding from Garvey, he did present the issues to her in such a way that he said the administrator is now aware of the safety concerns, and not just monetary shortcomings, regarding the airport.

“I told her the tower was a priority,” Bryan said. “Not for cost but for safety.

“As a member of the aviation subcommittee, I made the point that there are unique concerns regarding the airport.”

Bryan said he understands first-hand the safety concerns as he has flown to and from the Lake Tahoe Airport several times over the years.

Joining Bryan in bipartisan support of the airport are both California senators, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev.

The senator said all of the above have written to the FAA urging continued funding for the airport.

Feinstein’s September 1997 letter commented on her trip into the airport with Vice President Gore last summer for the presidential visit to Lake Tahoe. She cited the pilot’s difficulty in negotiating the mountainous terrain as well as the altitude as her concerns for a loss of air traffic control here.

“The high elevation and dangerously changeable weather conditions at Lake Tahoe make the continued operation of an air traffic control tower an absolutely essential safety measure,” Bryan said. “While the continued operation of the Lake Tahoe Airport tower can be justified based solely on general aviation’s need for safe access to the airport, continued operation of the tower is also essential to the community’s efforts to resume scheduled air service to the airport.”

The airport has been without commercial service for about two years. The city recently hired a leading industry marketing firm to bring commercial airlines to the airport.

Representatives of the marketing firm predict commercial service at the airport within a year, but airport officials say it would be nearly impossible to attract a provider who uses jet airplanes without a staffed control tower.

Should the congressional efforts be unsuccessful, the tower can still be staffed with local funds. However, with budget cuts being felt throughout the city staff and many redevelopment projects planned, city officials admit finding the $200,000 per year to fund the tower’s staffing would be difficult.

City Council member Tom Davis left for Washington D.C. last night with City Manager Kerry Miller to gather more support for the airport tower.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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