AOPA concerned over impact of Los Alamos landfill project

September 23, 2004

September 20, 2004

Nona Bowman, Chair
Los Alamos County Council
P.O. Box 30
Los Alamos, NM 87544

Dear Mrs. Bowman:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) represents the general aviation interests of more than 400,000 members, over two thirds of the nation's pilots. More than 3,050 of our members live in the state of New Mexico. AOPA is committed to ensuring the future viability and development of general aviation airports and their facilities as part of a national transportation system.

Our members have alerted us to an issue of serious concern to AOPA regarding Department of Energy (DOE) environmental remediation plans that will have a negative impact on current airport operations and future development of the Los Alamos Airport (LAM). LAM serves a vital purpose in the county. In fact, a number of DOE employees assigned to the Los Alamos National Laboratory use this airport to commute to and from work. Seventy-two aircraft are based at LAM with over 20,000 annual operations. The airport is a vital strategic asset for national security given the proximity of the National Laboratory.

AOPA has received a copy of the September 14, 2004, letter from the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) to Mr. Edwin L. Wilmot of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) concerning a proposal to exhume a 60-year-old landfill and place the contents on airport property in such a manner as to prevent future aeronautical use of that land. AOPA strongly supports the NMDOT's request for a 90-day delay in beginning the planned work. The association requests and strongly encourages all parties to discuss the alternatives and agree upon a solution that will ensure the continued viability and safe operation of LAM in full compliance with applicable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NMDOT requirements.

It is the association's understanding that the DOE, as the airport and project sponsor, has not yet made notification to the FAA regarding the placement of the landfill material adjacent to the airport's only runway as required under Title 14 CFR Part 77.13 and 77.25. Notification will allow the FAA to follow the established obstruction evaluation process and also provide an opportunity for public comment.

AOPA respectfully requests that the DOE immediately suspend the planned October 2004 project start and working in coordination with the county as the current airport operator make the required notification to the FAA.

We appreciate your consideration of AOPA's views on this issue. If we can be of further assistance, please contact our staff at 301/695-2200.

Sincerely,

John L. Collins
Government Technical Specialist
AOPA Airport Support Network

Cc:

Mr. Edwin L. Wilmot, Manager, Los Alamos Site Office, DOE
Mr. Tom Baca, Director, New Mexico Aviation Division
Ms. Naomi Suanders, Manager, FAA Southwest Region Airports Division
Mr. Joe Alexa, LAM Program Manager, FAA New Mexico Airports Field Unit
Ms. Shelly Lesikar, AOPA Southwest Regional Representative
Mr. David Carroll, AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer LAM