Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Brookings seeks $400,000 grant to fund improvements

Thanks to the City of Brookings, a mandatory runway improvement project for Del Norte County Regional Airport is poised to receive $400,000 from the State of Oregon.

A final review committee of the Oregon Department of Transportation voted on Thursday to include the Runway Safety Area (RSA) project for Crescent City's airport despite the project being in California.

"It's really unusual for Oregon to authorize the expenditure of Oregon funds in another state, but I think that everyone involved in the project has done a good job of representing that Del Norte County airport is as much an Oregon airport as it is a California airport in terms of its customer base," said Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman, who gave presentations on the project to committees that vetted the projects competing for grant funding.

Brookings applied for the grant asa member of the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority, a consortium of two city governments (Crescent City and Brookings), two county governments (Del Norte and Curry counties) and two American Indian tribes (Elk Valley Rancheria and Smith River Rancheria) that manages the Del Norte airport.

The RSA project will improve shoulders andbuffer zones on the airport, bringing the project up to minimum standards for the Federal Aviation Administration, which has said that all commercial airports across the nation must meet the standards by December 2015 or risk losing their operating permits.

The FAA is funding 95 percent of the $16 million project, but local agencies are required to provide 5 percent matching funds, which is where the grant from Oregon comes in.

ConnectOregon, the program writing the $400,000 check, focuses on improving connections between Oregon highways and other modes of transportation, including marine, aviation, bicycle, pedestrian and rail. The final review committee recommended $6.5 million for 15 aviation-related projects across Oregon. There was $42.4 million allocated for 37 projects across Oregon, with $4.6 million going to projects in ODOT Region 3, which includes Curry, Coos, Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties.

The grant, which was crafted by Jeanine Galatioto, the airport authority's special assistant, only sought to obtain 5 percent of the actual construction cost, which is about $8 million, according to airport authority director Susan Daugherty.

The airport authority will continue to apply for grant funding to cover the additional $400,000 match required by local agencies, Daugherty said.

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors has agreed to loan the airport authority up to $1.8 million to pay for interim funding for the project's construction and environmental review costs.

Daugherty said that the airport authority has unsuccessfully applied for ConnectOregon funds in the past, and that she knew the project's California address would be the biggest issue with receiving the grant.

Milliman said that some ODOT committee members were very skeptical about approving funds to be spent in California and voted against the project, but ultimately it passed on to the next stage.

"We were pleased that the review panels at all levels in this competitive grant process recognized the importance of the Del Norte Airport to the region's economy, and that the region includes Brookings and Curry County," Milliman said in a statement."They recognized that the Del Norte Airport is our local airport and is important not only for its passenger service but for critical air ambulance service."

The Oregon Transportation Commission is holding a public hearing on the recommendations for the projects during a meeting in Salem on July 17, and the commission will make a final decision at its meeting in August.

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