Members of Congress speak out against Calif. airport closure

January 29, 2004

Members of Congress speak out against Calif. airport closure

Jan. 29, 2004 - Responding to a request from the Friends of Concord Airport Coalition at Concord, California's Buchanan Field (CCR), U.S. Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and George Miller (D-Calif.) have told FAA Administrator Marion Blakey that they "strongly oppose" closing the airport, and they want a "prompt" answer from the administrator on the FAA's position on such a closure. AOPA has already told the county it can't close the airport and asked FAA to send the same message.

"Words like 'strongly' and 'prompt' carry special significance in Washington, especially in letters from Congress to federal agencies," said AOPA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Jon Hixson. "They're designed to make agency heads sit up and take notice."

Contra Costa County Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier recently contacted the FAA, informing them that the county would like to consider closing or moving air operations from Buchanan Field and developing the land for non-aviation uses, such as housing.

In their letter, Tauscher and Miller say Buchanan Field is an important element in the economic infrastructure of their districts and provides important benefits in emergency situations and as an important reliever for the three major air carrier airports in the area, at San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

"Buchanan is built on excess federal land deeded by the Navy to the county for the sole purpose of providing aviation services to the region," they wrote. "Furthermore, approximately $14 million in federal grants through the Airport Improvement Program have been used by the county to develop and enhance air services at Buchanan.

"We are concerned that the county will spend scarce resources to conduct a study that contemplates closing Buchanan when the county's current fiduciary obligations to your agency and the federal government appear to make closure near impossible."

The two members of Congress want Blakey's office to spell out the FAA's position on the closure of Buchanan Field and to explain exactly what the county faces if it decides to pursue closing the airport.

"Contra Costa officials face an almost insurmountable challenge if they try to close Buchanan," said AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn. "And that's as it should be. It needs to be difficult, so it's easier to protect these valuable national assets. And Reps. Tauscher and Miller are making sure the county officials know what they're up against."

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