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SINCE 2000
Congress considers continuing grants to Micronesia

By Moneth Deposa SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 25, 2010) - The Federal Aviation Administration awarded nearly US$1 billion in Airport Improvement Project funds to Pacific Islands airports in fiscal years 2000 through 2009, according to Honolulu Airports District Office FAA manager Ron Simpson.

Speaking on the second day of the 13th Micronesian Chief Executives Summit, Simpson said yesterday that in fiscal years 2004 through 2009 alone, the FAA awarded a total of US$658 million to Pacific airports.

Data presented to summit participants showed that Pacific airports got the highest grant amount in FY 2009, amounting to US$123.4 million. This is a slight increase from the US$120.1 million issued in FY 2005.

Other AIP funding received in past fiscal years include US$102.7 million in FY 2004; US$70.7 million in FY 2006; US$136.5 million in FY 2007; and US$103.8 million in FY 2008.

There are two types of AIP funds: Entitlement funds and discretionary funds.

The entitlement funding levels are a proportionate distribution based on the number of enplanements for the airport. From FY 2004 through 2009, FAA issued a total of US$276.6 million in entitlement funds.

Discretionary funds are distributed on a competitive basis and are based on airport performance. From FY 2004 through 2009, FAA issued a total of US$353.4 million in discretionary funds.

In making AIP discretionary funding decisions, Simpson said the FAA is required to consider whether funding has been provided for all other "higher priority" projects.

Simpson said that AIP projects with funding priority included the construction of the Airport Rescue Firefighting buildings, acquisition of ARFF vehicles and equipment; pavement rehabilitation including upgrades to electrical vaults, airfield marking, lighting and signage; perimeter security fencing; runway and taxiway extensions and terminal improvements, in addition to maintenance and enhancement costs.

He disclosed that over 50 new generation ARFF vehicles have so far been procured for the Pacific region using AIP funds.

FAA also ensures that these projects met regulatory safety requirements and increase airport capacity, Simpson said.

The FAA official said that funds have also been set aside for the military airport program, noise compatibility program, reliever airport funds, small airport funds, and disaster relief funds.

Simpson also encouraged Micronesian the leaders to collaborate and monitor developments in the U.S. Congress, where a proposal to extend the eligibility of Micronesia’s airports for AIP grants is being reviewed. He said hearings for the AIP reauthorization are now being conducted, with a proposal to extend Micronesian airports’ eligibility to 2012.

Vision 100, or the AIP Reauthorization Bill, made Micronesian airports eligible for discretionary funding under the AIP programs for fiscal years 2004 through 2007. The AIP extensions for FYs 2008 and 2009 included Micronesia airports.

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