(BIVN) – The Waimea-Kohala Airport could become exempt from regulations that threaten federal funding for Essential Air Service communities in Hawaiʻi and Alaska, under a bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives.
Hawaiʻi Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Colleen Hanabusa joined Alaska Congressman Don Young in introducing H.R.4836, which – if passed – would protect Waimea-Kohala Airport on Hawaiʻi Island, Kalaupapa Airport on Molokaʻi, and Hana Airport on Maui.
From a Gabbard media release:
As noncontiguous states with unique reliance on air travel, Hawaiʻi and Alaska have historically been exempt from EAS eligibility requirements. However, recent appropriations legislation requires EAS communities in all states located within 40 miles from the nearest small hub airport to implement a cost-share agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation. This requirement has put federal funding for rural airports at risk, without taking into account the unique travel challenges of rural Hawaiʻi and Alaska residents. The legislation (H.R.4836) introduced today would exempt Hawaiʻi and Alaska from cost-sharing requirements, protecting certain rural communities from choosing between an increased cost burden and closing their airports.
On November 14, 2017, the US Department of Transportation issued an Order extending the current contract for the provision of Essential Air Service for Kamuela/Waimea (MUE), through January 15, 2018, and terminating the EAS subsidy effective January 16, 2018.
In the media release, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “Air transportation is an essential lifeline for people in Hawaiʻi. Whether it be for finding a job, starting a small business, going to see a doctor, going to school, and visiting family and friends, air travel is the only option available. A national one-size-fits-all regulation on Essential Air Service eligibility fails to acknowledge Hawaiʻi’s unique travel needs and the geographical realities our residents face every single day. Our legislation would extend protections for Hawaiʻi and Alaska that Congress has long recognized and ensure our rural populations maintain access to critical transportation resources.”
“Hawaiʻi and Alaska are home to many isolated, rural communities that depend on reliable, affordable air transportation. Our residents and visitors must be able to access air travel to do business, seek healthcare, and travel throughout Hawaiʻi and our nation. If Essential Air Service (EAS) communities are forced to play by the rules of big city airports, we could lose these critical air transport hubs. Mahalo to Congresswoman Gabbard and Congressman Young for their efforts to support our rural communities,” said Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
“When I helped create the Essential Air Service during the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, it was meant to help rural communities access mainline service to reach their destinations,” said Congressman Don Young. “Given the unique service needs and geographic distance between major and regional hubs, waiving local cost shares is just one way to help those traveling from rural areas reach mainline service. Without subsidies these routes would be extremely costly to operate and utilize which is why we must protect these EAS communities from any additional burdens.”