By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
Too much government regulation and not enough funding is the message Del Norte County's new state senator is hearing in his first visit here since his election last November.
After landing here yesterday, senator Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) met with the Elk Valley Rancheria, some local doctors with the Del Norte Health Care District, the California Conservation Corps in Klamath and officials of the county government, as well as some nearshore fishermen.
After getting an earful, Aanestad said "Maybe we don't need more help from the government, but for the government to get out of the way."
"We are overregulated to where they are really starting to intrude on the economies of these small rural areas," he added.
Shown around by Scott Feller, of Del Norte County's Republican Party Central Committee, Aanestad was lobbied heavily by county officials to call off state agencies threatening to limit expansion of the Crescent City airport.
"We've determined this is our lifeline to economic development," said Del Norte County Supervisor Martha McClure to the senator yesterday.
But to help the local economy grow, the airport must be expanded to accommodate regional jets, she and other officials said.
And to expand, the county will need permission from the historically restrictive California Coastal Commission and state Fish and Game.
Specifically, the airport runways need to be reinforced and lengthened by about 850 feet to accommodate the small jets United Air Express and other airlines are switching to.
Runway expansion may mean filling in small patches of wetland ¬ó a practice the Coastal Commission usually frowns upon.
But it may be the county's only option, as there are no other areas in the county to build a big-enough airport, according to Ernie Perry, head of the county Community Development Department.
"Almost 80 percent of the county is owned by the federal and state government and we have no place to move our airport. They have moved in around us and we really don't have anywhere else," said McClure.
Perry added it was promised that tourism to the state parks was to offset the loss in property-tax income resulting from the state purchase of county land.
But with persistent closures of Highways 101 and 199, Perry said the best way for people with money to spend to get here is by flying into the airport.
Aanestad agreed it is important for him to help Del Norte County build up its struggling economy.
"My political philosophy is that communities need to be self-sufficient and the more viable the businesses are in that economy, the less state and federal aid is needed. So as government, we want to do what we can to help communities be self-sufficient," he said.
Today, Aanestad is scheduled to meet with several local officials of the county's school district, Crescent City, Crescent City Harbor District and the county.