State considers a sponsor for Birchwood Airport

A snow-covered plane wing at the Birchwood Airport.
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The State of Alaska's Department of Transportation & Public Facilities is in discussions about obtaining a sponsor for the Birchwood Airport.

DOT Spokesperson Shannon McCarthy says the state is in "preliminary" talks with Eklutna Inc. over the move, which would need to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"It's just about asking the questions of is it possible to become an airport sponsor," McCarthy said. "We're of course open to this discussion-- any of our airports entity, a nonprofit entity, or government could ask to be an airport sponsor and that's what we're chatting with them about right now."

McCarthy says if Eklutna Inc. became a sponsor, management responsibilities currently held by the state's DOT would shift to the native corporation.

"They would have to get approvals from FAA and the state to take over all the responsibilities that the state does now, which is maintaining, you know owning, operating, working with the lease-holders that kind of thing," McCarthy said.

Eklutna Inc. chief executive officer, Curtis McQueen, told Channel 2 over the phone on Monday talks came up in late spring or early summer.

"We said we would consider the idea," McQueen said.

Despite rumors circulating on social media saying the state is attempting to sell the airport, McQueen said it's not true.

McQueen said Eklutna Inc. owns the land surrounding the airport and is supportive of infrastructure.

On Saturday, the Birchwood Airport Association held a meeting discussing the potential changes and concerns of current tenants of the airport land.

Tim Bloom, Birchwood Airport Association president, told Channel 2 primary concerns include possible fees and changes to leases.

"The concern would be leases, or extra fees or taxes that could come up. So our buildings, we're on leased land and our buildings are ours on the land so what would that lease fee be, would there be landing fees involved, would the leases go up would there be different restrictions?" Bloom wondered.

McQueen says no decisions have been made.

"We are very far from that right now," McQueen said.

McCarthy said the state DOT plans to meet with Federal Aviation Administration officials over the next month to see if the change would be possible.

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