The following is a letter sent to Steamboat Springs City Manager Alan Lanning from the Federal Aviation Administration. The letter was received Aug. 8. The Steamboat Pilot & Today obtained a copy of the letter Monday afternoon:
Alan D. Lanning
City of Steamboat Springs
P.O. Box 775088
Steamboat Springs, Colorado 80477-5088
Dear Mr. Lanning:
On July 18, 2006, the Steamboat Springs City Council was presented with a petition to put a measure on the November ballot to close Steamboat Springs Airport. This letter is to remind the City Council of its contractual obligations with the Federal Aviation Administration to operate and maintain the airport as an airport.
Since 1985, the City has entered into agreements with the FAA for the acceptance of Federal funds for airport development projects and land acquisition under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), 49 U.S.C. 47101 et seq. In accepting over $9.53 million in AIP funds, the City has agreed to specific Federal obligations, including a commitment to keep the Airport open and make it available for public use as an airport. Since the City acquired land with AIP funds, this obligation runs in perpetuity. Thus the City may not close the Airport without FAA's consent and without a formal release of the City from terms of the applicable Federal regulations.
It is FAA's policy to strengthen the national airports system and not to support the closure of public airports. The FAA has rarely approved an application to close an airport. Such approvals were only in highly unusual circumstances where closing the airport provided a benefit to civil aviation.
Steamboat Springs Airport is a general aviation airport with 82 based aircraft and over 10,000 annual operations. This is a healthy activity level by any standard for a general aviation (GA) airport in the National Plan if Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). Typical GA airports in the NPIAS have an average of 33 based aircraft.
The FAA funds the development of GA airports in part to permit growth and increase capacity at commercial airports like nearby Yampa Valley Regional Airport. GA airports have successfully relocated GA activity from commercial airports, such as Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Because of Steamboat Springs Airport's continued benefit to civil aviation as a GA airport, the FAA has invested over $9.53 million in AIP funds. It is unlikely the FAA would find any justification for a release of Steamboat Springs Airport for closure.
We encourage you to review your Federal obligations before putting a measure on the ballot that is counter to your contractual obligations with the FAA. If you have any questions regarding your obligations or this letter, please contact Marc Miller, Compliance Officer, Denver Airports District Office at (303) 342-1282.
Craig A. Sparks
Manager, Denver Airports District Office
CC: Joelle Briggs, ANM-626
Mel Baker, Manager, Steamboat Springs Airport
Colorado Department of Transportation