Lawmakrs Fight To Keep Tahoe Tower Open

Lake Tahoe
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Some members of the California and Nevada congressional delegations have joined the fight to keep the Lake Tahoe Airport tower open.

In a letter sent last week, they urged Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to reconsider a South Lake Tahoe City Council proposal designed to keep the tower in operation.

The letter was signed by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both D-Calif., Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., and Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev.

South Lake Tahoe exclusively funds airport maintenance and operations, and is unable to pay an additional $100,000 annually required by the Federal Aviation Administration because of a budget crunch.

As an alternative, the city council requested permission to reduce tower hours by about a half. The FAA denied the request last month.

"As federal representatives whose constituents are impacted by this FAA decision, we urge your support for allowing the city to reduce airport tower hours unless FAA funding for tower operations can remain at the same level throughout this year," the letter to Mineta concluded.

Councilman Tom Davis has sought federal help in keeping the airport open on four different occasions.

"The airport has been threatened to close before, but we've always been able to fund it," Davis told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

The issue will return to the council on April 20 with recommendations from the airport commission on ways to generate more revenue.

Last month, the city agreed to pay a full, first-month fee of $18,480 to keep airport services going past an April 1 deadline set by the FAA.

The FAA has doubled to $214,000 the amount the city is required to pay a contractor to monitor air traffic.