March 17, 2016

Manchin Authorizes Funding for Yeager Airport in FAA Reauthorization

Senator Manchin’s provision ensures that airports impacted by a natural disaster can use federal funding to make critical repairs  

Washington, D.C. – As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today applauded the Committee’s passage of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill. Included in the bill is Senator Manchin’s amendment to allow airports that have been impacted by a Presidential disaster declaration to use Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding for permanent repairs if they are denied funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Yeager Airport is currently appealing FEMA’s initial determination that the permanent repairs to the Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS) are ineligible for federal assistance.

"When I toured Yeager Airport last March, I saw, first hand, the disastrous impact that this landslide had on this community, and I committed to help lead the effort to make it right,” Senator Manchin said. “As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I am pleased that my amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill was included in the final package that passed out of committee. My amendment will give airports, like Yeager, access to the funding they need to make necessary repairs. Without any change to current law, places like Yeager find themselves empty handed when disaster strikes, ineligible for any of the federal programs designed to help make them whole again.”

Yeager Airport Director Terry Sayre said, "Yeager Airport appreciates Senator Manchin's efforts to fund the FAA while ensuring our nation’s airports continue to receive needed infrastructure funding.”

The March 13th Yeager Airport landslide was a result of severe winter weather and caused the airport’s Engineered Materials Arresting System (EMAS) to collapse, pushing 800,000-CY of earth and debris toward a church and numerous private residences.  Utility electric, fiber optics, water, and sewer services were in the path of the landslide and were eventually disrupted. While the airport remains safe and open, nearly 200,000 cubic yards of material remain to be cleaned up.

The two-year reauthorization bill that cleared the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday extends FAA authority through September 2017 and increases the authorized funding levels for the Airport Improvement Program. The bill maintains support for Essential Air Service to ensure that rural communities, like many in West Virginia, have access to air service. It also establishes a working group on improving air service to small communities, including recommendations for how to address the challenges associated with the pilot supply shortage. The Senate bill does not include the controversial proposal that was included in the House version which the transfer the management of the nation’s air traffic control system from the FAA over to an independent, nonprofit corporation.