By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
During a visit to Del Norte County yesterday, U.S. Sen, Barbara Boxer said she wrote a bill on the spot to help renovate Del Norte County's airport.
Boxer said the bill was inspired by the plight of Del Norte and was written in a car while driving through the county.
"The bill I wrote came from this community," Boxer said, as she addressed a crowd of mainly local officials at Crescent City Harbor.
The bill would eliminate the need for Del Norte County to come up with a portion of the money for airport renovation, she said.
"It will waive the 10 percent matching grant in communities that have a high unemployment rate and are looking to rejuvenate their business climate. I think from what you can see around you, you can see what county will fit that description," she said.
Boxer did not offer additional details about the bill yesterday.
Del Norte County has been struggling with funds and legal obstacles to enlarge the airport for commercial traffic.
During a meeting with officials from several local agencies, Boxer said she thought Del Norte County would soon become a destination for tourism despite its current economic hardships.
"I'm very optimistic in the long range of what will happen here," she said. "As the state grows, people want and will look for recreation, especially along the coast. They don't go overseas and to Europe like they used to. They're looking for places like this."
During the meeting, Boxer asked the assembled officials about what concerns they had she could bring back to Washington D.C.
Rich Taylor, CEO of the Crescent City Harbor District, used a map to explain to Boxer how difficult it is for the district to dredge its harbor, and to find funding for it. Most funding for dredging comes from state and federal sources.
Boxer, who admitted she was not well-versed on the subject, said she would speak with U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson about the process.
Del Norte County Supervisor Martha McClure mentioned restrictions of the Crescent City airport and narrow local highways as roadblocks for economic development. Aside from her announcement about the airport bill, Boxer said she would look into what aid may be available for widening Highway 199.
Executive Director Earl Hansen of the Yurok Economic Development Corporation told Boxer that water flows in Klamath River are a top concern. Hansen said the current insufficient flows do not meet the federal government's obligations to the tribes, and last year's Klamath fish kill was poor advertisement for tourism to the region.
Boxer said the Klamath River water battle between inland farmers and the tribes and fishermen downstream was something she has fought before.
"I was as stunned as you were when that happened," Boxer said of the fish kill. "I don't know if you were aware of it, but we had a big battle on the Senate floor, where we had won against Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) ... but they went ahead and did that (cut the water flow downstream), and we were saying all along this was going to happen."
Speaking to Lt. j.g. Lee Titus, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Dorado, and Captain Jeff Pettitt, commander of Group Humboldt Bay, Boxer said she would work for further "assistance" for Coast Guard posts.
"Al Qaida is looking for ways to infiltrate, and our harbors need to be protected," she said.
Also attending the meeting were Supervisor David Finigan, Crescent City City Manager Dave Wells, City Councilman Mickey Youngblood, Harbor commissioners Garry Young and Dan Kirkpatrick, and Sheriff Dean Wilson.