Grand County’s Canyonlands Field Airport received more than $1 million in grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, part of a $10 billion package that included most airports in the country.
The federal legislation that created the funding, known as the CARES Act, makes key changes to how FAA grants have traditionally been spent, according to Airport Director Andy Solsvig.
As a non-hub primary airport that annually reports more than 10,000 enplanements — passengers — Canyonlands Field qualified for $1 million in entitlement funding, which until now have almost always been used on infrastructure projects to maintain airport grounds, said Solsvig.
Now, with tourism and transient room taxes down significantly, the FAA will allow airports to use the funding for operations and maintenance, payroll and debt service payments.
Canyonlands received nearly $1.058 million, a figure that is based in part on 2018 enplanements. More might have been received if the formula used 2019 passenger counts, which for the first time surpassed 20,000.
Solsvig said the grant will be fully used to support the airport’s budget. “With tourism and TRT collections significantly down, these additional grant dollars will ease some budgetary pressure for Grand County,” he said. “Additionally, the FAA has indicated 100% grant funding for 2020 projects yet to be awarded. These additional funds will help to fully finance an upcoming airport project design and construction.
The bulk of the $10 billion package, $7.4 billion, was earmarked for commercial service airports. Another $2 billion went to primary airports, which is how Canyonlands Field is designated.
Flights still taking place
Solsvig said the additional funding is a “lifeline to Grand County and the continuation of long-term air service to the region. With that in mind, he said the airport has continued to provide daily flights, in large part to keep people employed.
“With CNY being an Essential Air Service market, contracts are being honored by the Department of Transportation based on completed flights, which has allowed daily air service to continue in and out of the airport,” he said. “Concerns regarding the continuation of daily flights are understandable, but it’s important to understand the economic trickle effect related to one airline flight. A single flight supports individual jobs, such as flight crews, local SkyWest ground support staff, TSA workers, Redtail fuelers, and the airport’s aircraft rescue and firefighters.”
Solsvig said small community airports from coast to coast are losing air service, something that Moab has been fortunate to keep during the pandemic. He also said all safety precautions to protect staff and passengers have been followed.
Solsvig said the airport taxiway “A” and apron project continues with paving started as of Monday, April 27. “The contractors intend to finish up the section near the ‘A2’ taxiway connector in order to open that up earlier for aircraft use and then get started on phases three and four sometime next week,” he said. “This will allow paving to continue on the remainder of the taxiway while moving forward on the other phases.”