U.S. Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr. is scheduled to meet with Gov. Norm Bangerter and Reps. Howard Nielson and Jim Hansen, both R-Utah, at Lake Powell Thursday to discuss building a new airport facility at Hall's Crossing.
San Juan County officials and the Federal Aviation Administration favor replacing a dirt runway there to help handle extra tourism and improve safety. The FAA included $1 million in its budget to begin construction of the new facility.The National Park Service has been reluctant to release the land needed except with severe restrictions - such as perhaps not allowing drink machines - which some say would make it impossible for a airport concessionaire to survive.
Lujan has expressed interest in breaking the deadlock among the groups.
"We have no time to lose in developing this airport. It is critical to the economic needs of San Juan County, and it is a vital transportation link in making this great recreational area accessible to the public," said Nielson earlier this week. The airport is in Nielson's district.
Among safety problems Nielson says exist at the current dirt runway are a 200-foot sandstone bluff at its south end and a slope toward Lake Powell at the north end - which the FAA considers insufficient "clear zones."
Also, the dirt runway does not allow proper day-and-night access for mercy flights transporting anyone injured in the area, he said.