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More aviation funding proposed in North Dakota

A bill that would provide $20 million from oil revenue for airport improvements in North Dakota as part of a $100 million infrastructure appropriation has passed the state House of Representatives and moved to the state Senate.

“With current support stretched thin for maintaining the state’s 89 public-use airports, the large-scale influx of capital would be the first of its kind, driven by surging demand for aviation services”, said AOPA Great Lakes Region Manager Kyle Lewis. The proposal is supported by Gov. Doug Burgum, and is being promoted to legislators by Kyle Wanner, director of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, Lewis said.

The measure was the subject of a hearing in the State’s Appropriations Committee on March 11 and was recommended for passage by the committee.

“Pavement maintenance, navaids, hangars, and other airfield-related funding requests through 2024 are upwards of $840 million. The infrastructure bill is a welcome breath of fresh air for the state’s aviation system,” Lewis said.

The bill nicknamed Operation Prairie Dog would establish an airport infrastructure fund from which the aeronautics commission could provide grants from funds made available by legislative appropriations.

Its consideration comes with the state’s aviation system in the spotlight: A new commercial airport, the Williston Basin International Airport, is scheduled to open in October in the state’s oil-producing district, and a governor’s proclamation recognizes March as Aviation Month.

The new airport would act as an operational replacement for Sloulin Field, which as passenger use grows is saddled with challenges including the condition of its pavement; excessive runway slope for aircraft expected to use the facility; and other out-of-standard deficiencies that could preclude federal funding of repairs.

Lewis pressed general aviation’s support for the enhanced aviation infrastructure funding to support the state’s $3.6 billion aviation and aerospace industry on March 4 and 5 at the Upper Midwest Aviation Conference, and again with lawmakers on March 6 in Bismarck at an Aviation Day at the Capitol event.

“North Dakota is being proactive in finding solutions to its large-scale funding needs, and funding those needs based on priorities,” he said.

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