Georgia senators further support airport move

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has filed another amendment this week to the National Defense Authorization Act to provide funding to relocate the St. Marys airport. 

The act now has two amendments supporting the airport move. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., filed the first amendment before the act passed the U.S. House in May.

Isakson’s amendment provides for the relocation to be coordinated by the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense, according to a press release. The DOD has indicated that it is willing to cover some of the relocation costs, according to Isakson.

“Camden County is home to a key front line in our nation’s defense: Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay,” Isakson said. “The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines located in Kings Bay is one of our nation’s most secure and survivable nuclear deterrents. I am fighting to ensure this critical asset to our national defense remains threat-free while also helping the city of St. Marys with the financial burden of relocation costs.”

The airport’s proximity to Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base has long been a concern, especially after Sept. 11, 2001. The airport was closed shortly after the attacks and reopened later that year. A restricted flight zone known as P-50 has since been established over Kings Bay. Relocation efforts began in 2003 with voters saying in a 2008 referendum that they favored relocation if it could be done without costing taxpayers.

If the act becomes law, the U.S. Department of Defense would be authorized to use the $6 million allotted by Carter’s amendment to “free” the city of its financial obligations to the Federal Aviation Administration and close the airport, according to Carter. A combination of city, state and federal money is used to fund capital improvements at the airport. If the airport closed without being relocated, the city would face financial penalties for having used federal money for those improvements.

The $6 million would also go toward establishing a new general aviation airport in southeast Georgia.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., co-sponsored the amendment.

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