COMMENTS TO CONTRA COSTA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS REGARDING RFP FOR BUCHANAN FIELD REPLACEMENT AIRPORT AND REDEVELOPMENT OF EXISTING AIRPORT
May 25, 2004
Good morning. I'm John Pfeifer, California Regional Representative of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and I am speaking on behalf of AOPA. Prior to my retirement from the Federal Aviation Administration in 2001, I was the Manager of the FAA's San Francisco Airports District Office, the same position Andy Richards holds today.
AOPA is opposed to the County proceeding with the RFP process and requests that the Board terminate the process now. The longer the County proceeds with this process, the more Contra Costa County taxpayers money will be wasted and the damaging uncertainty over the airport's future will be extended. I realize that the Board memo and RFP indicate that there will be no fiscal impact. However, I have personally been the FAA official responsible for numerous site selections for new airports, including your Byron airport, and I can tell you that the process will consume hundreds of hours of County staff time coordinating the process with the State and the FAA. And even if a respondent to the RFP pays for that staff time, that time will not be available for other necessary projects. I noticed in the Contra Costa Times last night when I got to town that the County is currently proposing staff layoffs. And, at the end of the process, whether it is six months or six years from now, this Board or some future Board will have the same information you have today.
First, there is no feasible site for a replacement airport. The County itself studied possible sites for a new airport several times during the 1970's and 1980's. The only site eventually found suitable for a new airport was the Byron site, where the County opened its new airport in the 1990's. I was the FAA official in charge of that study. Contra Costa County's topography has not changed. The only difference is that a lot more of it is now covered with development.
Second, the FAA has sent, in two letters, a clear statement that it is not interested in entertaining the closure of Buchanan.
Third, your congressional delegation also has sent a clear statement that it is not interested in entertaining the closure of Buchanan, either. And even two weeks ago, Congressman Don Young sent a strong letter to the FAA Administrator opposing closure of the airport. That letter will undoubtedly result in yet another letter from the FAA.
Moving forward with the RFP process will prolong the fictitious hope, held by some, that the airport will close and will also prolong the uncertainty about the airport's future. This airport is vital to the economy of the region, and this uncertainty needs to be resolved immediately, not extended for years.