Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Tahoe airport likely to see less jets
FAA stops annual $120,000 funding: Without support, tower to shut down.
THE RENO (NV) GAZETTE-JOURNAL
Unless some financial support materializes over the next few weeks, officials plan to close the tower at Lake Tahoe Airport at the end of September, Tahoe City Manager David Jinkens said Tuesday. The airport would remain open, but closing the tower would likely reduce the number of charter jets that come into the tourism-based community and rule out chances of securing regular commercial air service, city officials said.
“We’re trying to maintain the airport as an important regional asset. But without some help, it’s clear we won’t be able to continue to operate the tower,” Jinkens said.
He said the Federal Aviation Administration has eliminated its $120,000 in annual support for the tower. The city spends $620,000 a year to operate the airport but isn’t able to absorb any additional costs, Jinkens said.
Even a recent increase in landing fees won’t offset added expenses faced by the city for tower operations, he said.
Over the past few weeks, city officials have sent letters to other governments and to major businesses in the South Shore area – including hotel-casinos in Stateline – to solicit support.
So far, Jinkens said, the city hasn’t had success in securing any of the needed $120,000.
“We can certainly function as a general aviation airport. And if that’s what the community wants, that’s what we’ll have,” Jinkens said.
Last week, Douglas County commissioners heard from Jinkens and South Lake Tahoe Mayor Tom Davis. Although commissioners were sympathetic, they said they weren’t in position to help – especially since they have their own airport to fund.
“There’s no question the Lake Tahoe Airport is important to the region. But so is the Minden-Tahoe Airport. We’d help if we could, but we have to take care of our airport first,” Douglas County Commissioner Bernie Curtis said Tuesday.
Jinkens estimated about half of the 22,000 flights a year at Lake Tahoe are linked in some way to the Nevada side of the basin.
Curtis emphasized this works the other way as well – with the Minden field serving South Lake Tahoe residents and businesses.
Jinkens said FAA officials have told the city that air traffic doesn’t meet a high enough threshold to continue subsidizing tower operations. Yet takeoffs and landings have been on the rise since 2001, Jinkens said.
The Lake Tahoe Airport has had regularly scheduled commercial jet service in the past, but operations were reduced a number of years ago, partly because of noise concerns.