Dirt work is scheduled to begin at the site of the Williston Basin International Airport in the coming week. But could a senate bill put the project’s future in jeopardy?
“From day one, that’s what the plan was,” says Mayor Howard Klug.
The plan was that the city and state would each pay 25 percent of the airport project’s costs. The remaining half would be paid through federal funds. But Senate Bill 2013 would require the city to repay a significant portion of state funding. And repayment of those state funds could jeopardize federal funding for the project.
“It’s not the same ratio. The government is looking at it in a different light now. Saying the state isn’t doing their share. Why should we be all in on this project. And it’s really concerning to the city of Williston,” says Klug.
Losing federal funding for the project could have a huge impact on travelers since the runway at Sloulin Field is ill-equipped to handle heavier commercial airplanes.
“If this project goes away, I would imagine for two years there would be no air service to Williston while we tear up that runway and fix it,” says Klug.
While year-to-date passenger boardings at North Dakota commercial airports are at a five-year low, the need for a new airport remains, says Mayor Klug.
‘This is not Williston’s airport. This is a regional airport. Watford City is excited about this airport being 40 minutes away from their city. Also, Tioga, Crosby. This whole northwest area. It’s going to be so important for the economic future of this area,” says Klug.
Despite questions surrounding the project’s funding, construction of the new airport is proceeding as scheduled.
“We’re very confident that the airport money’s going to be there in the form that it’s going to need to be there. And that’s why we’re moving forward. And hopefully we don’t have to slam on the brakes,” says Klug.
But for now, Williston Basin International Airport is cleared for takeoff.
Senate Bill 2013 is in conference committee.
JE Dunn is the company that will be managing construction of the new airport terminal.