By a 6-0 vote at its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission voted to move forward with the closure of the Lake Murray State Park Airport. “Although the action may eventually have monetary costs, it was the right thing to do,” said Commission Director Victor Bird.
The Commission had previously considered closing the airport in July but had voted not to close it primarily because of a pending study by the Federal Aviation Administration that may have resulted in essentially closing the airport.
Prior to the July meeting, the Commission had received a letter from the FAA asking it to delay action regarding the airport due to the pending study and reminding it that the state had contractual obligations to the federal government because of the grants that the Commission and the Department of Tourism had accepted for the airport. One of those contractual obligations imposes a requirement to keep the airport open until 2027.
“When the Commission voted not to proceed with closing the airport in July, it was primarily motivated by wanting to save the state from having to pay back any money to the federal government if it had voted to close the airport and attempted to terminate the agreements that had provided the grant funds to the state for the airport. At that time, there appeared to be a real possibility that the FAA study might ultimately relieve the state of the obligation to keep the airport open and, consequently, any requirement to pay back up to $184,000 in grant funds that had been received for the airport. That the FAA study may accomplish this appears much less likely today. Indeed, it is more likely that any such relief would have to come from Congress after it has had an opportunity to review the study. Therefore, the Commission decided enough is enough. Hence, the vote Thursday to close the airport,” said Bird.
Bird defended the fact that since 2007, as allowed by Congress in the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, the Commission has transferred grant funds from Lake Murray airport to several other airports in the state and national system. Those funds have been transferred to Ardmore, Muskogee and Duncan, locations that have greater aviation demands.
“The needs at the airports in these communities had a higher priority than the needs at the Lake Murray airport. The fact is that the federal and state dollars we have to maintain and develop the state and national airport systems are precious. Without the ability to transfer these funds, we could not meet the needs of these communities and commerce across our state with respect to their airports,” said Director Bird.
Bird’s next step in the process of closing the airport is to ask the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to be relieved of the contractual obligations of the grant agreements, primarily requiring the state to keep the airport open.