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WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday that the air traffic control tower at the Salinas Municipal Airport, along with more than 100 others, will be closing.
FAA officials say the closures are necessary because of federal spending cuts.
Officials at the Salinas airport tell Central Coast News that the Salinas Airshow will not be affected by the tower closure.
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, sent a letter to the FAA earlier this week stating that if the tower at the Salinas airport is shut down the cost of fresh produce and vegetables could go up because "crop dusters" and other aircrafts that provide pest-control services would need to be coordinated from a remote airport tower outside Monterey County.
Congressman Farr released the following statement Friday afternoon:
"I am disappointed with the FAA's decision to move forward with the closing of the Salinas Municipal Airport tower which supports a $4 billion fresh produce industry in the Salinas Valley. Their failure to take into account the full economic consequences of closing the tower will affect the growing capability of the 210,000 acres of farmland in the valley that is responsible for over 60% of the nation's fresh lettuce and spinach, and over 70% of the nation's strawberries.
"Irresponsible cuts like this one are the reason I opposed sequestration in the first place. The inability of Republican leaders in Congress to reach a deal with President Obama has forced the federal government to make too many unnecessary cuts based on arbitrary thresholds. Decisions like this will continue to have a detrimental effect on our nation's fragile economy, particularly in rural communities where the impact will be much greater.
"In the coming days, I plan to gather leaders in the agricultural community so they may meet with the FAA to voice their concerns with the tower's closing. Hopefully, we can find a solution that will help mitigate some of the potential damage created by the agency's decision."
Here is the full press release issued by the FAA:
WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reached the decision that 149 federal contract towers will close beginning April 7 as part of the agency's sequestration implementation plan. The agency has made the decision to keep 24 federal contract towers open that had been previously proposed for closure because doing so would have a negative impact on the national interest.
An additional 16 federal contract towers under the "cost share" program will remain open because Congressional statute sets aside funds every fiscal year for these towers. These cost-share program funds are subject to sequestration but the required 5 percent cut will not result in tower closures.
"We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration."
"We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
In early March, FAA proposed to close 189 contract air traffic control towers as part of its plan to meet the $637 million in cuts required under budget sequestration and announced that it would consider keeping open any of these towers if doing so would be in the national interest.
The national interest considerations included: (1) significant threats to national security as determined by the FAA in consultation with the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security; (2) significant, adverse economic impact that is beyond the impact on a local community; (3) significant impact on multi-state transportation, communication or banking/financial networks; and (4) the extent to which an airport currently served by a contract tower is a critical diversionary airport to a large hub.
In addition to reviewing materials submitted on behalf of towers on the potential closure list, DOT consulted with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and conducted operational assessments of each potential tower closure on the national air transportation system.
Some communities will elect to participate in FAA's non-federal tower program and assume the cost of continued, on-site air traffic control services at their airport (see Advisory Circular AC 90-93A.) The FAA is committed to facilitating this transition.
The FAA will begin a four-week phased closure of the 149 federal contract towers beginning on April 7.
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