Mica says FAA estimates Gulf airports' damages at $160 million

In a move to get more aid to hurricane-battered Gulf Coast states, Congress has approved a bill that would make repairs to airport terminals eligible for Federal Aviation Administration grants. The bill, which the House passed Oct. 6 on a 420-0 vote, would allow airfields in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas to use FAA Airport Improvement Program grants to fix terminals, hangars and other buildings as well as for emergency operating expenses. The bill originated in the Senate, which approved it on Sept. 28.

AIP funds generally cannot be used to pay for work on airport buildings. Instead, their prime use is for runway and taxiway projects. House aviation subcommittee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) says that the new legislation "would temporarily broaden the eligible uses of existing...AIP funds, so that the full spectrum of hurricane repair costs can be met." He also says that the bill waives the usual 10% non-federal matching requirement for the Gulf airports. It only extends through fiscal 2006.

Lott says waiver of local matching share will help hard-hit localities

Mica notes that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit more than 40 Gulf airports, causing damages that FAA estimates at a minimum of $160 million. Mica says FAA has sent $47 million in fiscal 2005 emergency aid to those airfields, but the new bill will provide 2006 funds for repairs.

Senate aviation subcommittee Chairman Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the bill's original architect, said that the 100% federal funding is important to Gulf states. He says that state and local governments in the region "are cash-strapped, and some municipalities are totally destroyed. This bill takes considerable pressure off local taxpayers at a time when it's needed most."

(Photo above (left) by the office of Rep. John Mica and
photo above (right) by the office of Sen. Trent Lott)