States Tackle Security, Funding

In mid-September, the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) met for its 74th annual convention and trade show.

“One of our missions as an organization is to preserve what we have,” says Greene. “We’re trying to make sure the FAA understands that and works with us.” Wisconsin DOT has created a guide for land use around airports which Greene says has been well-received. “A lot of communities are viewing it and considering it in their master planning so that when they start looking at development they won’t encroach upon the airports.”

Says Ogrodzinski, “We have done a rotten job of protecting our airports from inappropriate land use, inappropriate development, inappropriate tall towers, tall buildings of every kind.” NASAO began working jointly with FAA through an MOU to “come up with a common sense way of dealing with this without stepping on each other’s turf.”

Chris Blum, regional administrator, FAA-Central Region, is one of eight appointed liaisons for NASAO under the group’s MOU with FAA. He describes his role as “finding out what the issues are for the organization and helping them get around the bureaucracy to come up with reasonable solutions or improvements to programs.”

Some of the issues the organizations have worked on together include environmental streamlining, runway safety, general aviation airport lighting, and pavement management. “The MOU is a wonderful vehicle,” says Blum.

Austin Wiswell, aeronautics division chief for the California DOT, calls FAA “admiral” for stepping up with an MOU to become better acquainted with encroachment and land use issues. “Now we need guidelines that cover airports nationwide,” he says.

A goal of Ogrodzinski and the organization is to build what he calls the framework for a national land use policy. “I hope to put together a tool kit which will help airports protect themselves from inappropriate development around the airport.” He says it would include a compilation of best practices which state officials can look to for guidance. Ogrodzinski recognizes that it will be a long process that will require cooperation from local, state, and federal entities. “But we have destroyed the utility of some airports by inappropriate land use.”

In Iowa, McEnany has established a land use subcommittee, including planners and city officials. She says the increase in cell phone towers and residential development are the key issues facing land use around the state’s airports.

National Funding Challenges

Funding the aviation system is also high on NASAO’s agenda. “We were very disappointed by the President’s budget,” says Ogrodzinski. He says the President’s proposal would have cut state apportionment by some 50 percent and state discretionary funding by some 40 percent. Both McEnany and Ogrodzinski say that the current $3.5 billion proposed is an acceptable victory, but it’s time the money be appropriated, or “invested,” as the NASAO CEO and president says. “Clearly, airport infrastructure is an investment.

“Our airport infrastructure is important to the economy of this nation and has been underfunded forever. Air-21 [and] Vision 100 brought us to the point where we’re making logical, appropriate investments in aviation infrastructure. Prior to that, our investment was pathetic, unplanned.”

Ogrodzinski says that the war in Iraq, enormous tax cuts, and recent hurricanes will be among the causes competing for government dollars — possibly putting additional strain on aviation funding.

As NASAO looks ahead to future funding, Ogrodzinski says that the association, in partnership with other legislative groups, will begin the battle in 2006 for 2007’s authorization debate.

“We’ve already heard Administrator Marion Blakey and Secretary Norman Mineta saying, ‘We don’t want to use the word user fees, but...’ Well, clearly we know where they’re going,” he says. NASAO opposes any type of proposed user fee. According to McEnany, “We will not be supportive of user fees, and collectively as an association all the states will come out against it.”

McEnany says user fees will impact the system negatively by decreasing general aviation activity. “It will put a larger burden on the users and especially the GA pilots. I think GA is already paying their fair share. They’re paying it at the pump and that’s where they should be paying it.”

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