City council votes to close Washington airport

February 28, 2007

City council votes to close Washington airport
AOPA looks for other options

Blaine Municipal Airport

The vote didn't go well for a Washington state airport, but AOPA hasn't given up just yet on trying to save it.

The Blaine City Council voted 4 to 3 on February 26 to close Blaine Municipal Airport by the end of 2008. AOPA and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Martin Ranck had rallied pilots to once again turn out and show support for the northwestern Washington airport. And they came from as far as Seattle to attend the meeting.

"We're extremely disappointed about this outcome," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports. "Unfortunately, some city leaders wanted the FAA to fund the entire airport development program - all $16 million of it at one time. That's an unrealistic expectation."

AOPA is in contact with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) and the Washington Department of Transportation to see if there are any other avenues to counter the closure. AOPA along with Ranck had worked tirelessly for 18 months to try and secure the airport's future.

The city council in October 2006 had voted to keep the airport open, but the majority of the council members wanted more than $16 million in federal Airport Improvement Program funds all at once. The FAA was only able to offer $500,000 this year due primarily to timing and the need to stage grants over an extended period of time.

Even though the state has invested funds in airport development, the airport has no federal grants or grant obligations to keep the airport open. With no FAA grants, options to force continued operation of the airport will fall to the state with its grants.

The city now faces a precarious situation. The airport land might fetch $5.7 million for the 34-acre site, but the city would have to pay back grant money and make settlements with airport leaseholders to the tune of $4 million, according to a report in The Bellingham Herald. The city could face lawsuits as well.

February 28, 2007