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Committee struck to 'solve' Castlegar Airport's problems

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

Some of the problems inherent in the West Kootenay region’s main airport will be tackled by a new board created to oversee its operation, says the mayor of Castlegar.

Lawrence Chernoff told the board of directors of the Regional District of Central Kootenay recently the West Kootenay Regional Airport Advisory committee was struck to help mitigate inconveniences endured by some of the over 74,000 passengers that pass through the Castlegar Airport each year.

People from Kaslo to Castlegar, Grand Forks to Nakusp and Nelson rely on the airport, but last winter there were 41 flight cancellations in the month of December alone, fulfilling the facility's nickname, "Cancel-gar."

Such a record is inexcusable, said Mayor Chernoff, considering the airport was “essential for the continued growth of the West Kootenay region.”

Nelson Mayor John Dooley concurred with Mayor Chernoff, the chair of the committee.

“The unreliability of the airport is probably the single biggest drawback to additional growth in the area,” Mayor Dooley said. “People are choosing options to drive to Cranbrook or to Trail.”

However, the scope of the work outlined for the committee is vague, including:

• promote the development of the airport as the major commercial hub in the West Kootenay;

• encourage the development of improved air services to the region;

• review and make recommendations on selected matters as requested by Castlegar City council;

• represent the interests of the airport with federal and provincial governments; and

• provide community input to airport management on airport activities.

Reviews, reports and advice on matters concerning the long-term development of the airport will be the purview of the committee.

There will be one representative chosen from Nelson City council to represent the city. In all, the advisory committee will include people from local government, business and the community within the airport’s catchment area, selected by Castlegar City council.

“Everybody in the area uses the airport so we just think for better operation we should have representation from all over the West Kootenay to sit on the board,” said Mayor Chernoff.

The routine operations and any special initiatives of the committee will be funded by allocations within the airport budget.