CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The state’s busiest airport will soon be able to write off the final debt associated with the 2015 hillside collapse at the end of its main runway.
Yeager Airport learned on Monday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had approved a $ 3.1 million grant to reimburse Charleston Airport for the removal of debris caused by the collapse.
“It’s really the last thing to do with slope failure,” said Nick Keller, Yeager Airport Manager. “This pays for the airport’s expenses that have already been incurred for the removal of debris from Keystone Drive.”
About 710,000 cubic meters of debris had to be removed after the collapse of the artificial hill. The collapse destroyed a church, damaged several homes and displaced a number of residents along Keystone Drive. The road was impassable as a result of the incident.
FEMA initially denied the funding request, Keller said.
“We sent an appeal and luckily we won on the appeal.”
Keller thanked the state congressional delegation and the Kanawha County Commission for completing the appeal.
U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito issued statements on Monday acknowledging the grant’s award.
“As chair of the subcommittee that funds FEMA, I’ve been working with FEMA Region III administrator Mary Ann Tierney on this topic for some time,” Capito said. “This funding comes after many meetings and conversations with FEMA to do good for those affected by the slide. After all the work Yeager went to filing an appeal after their refund request was initially denied, I’m glad this is the end result.
NEW: @YeagerAirport will be reimbursed over $ 3 million for cleanup following the slope failure in 2015. This funding comes after many meetings and conversations with @fema doing good by those affected by the slide at Yeager. ✈️
– Shelley Moore Capito (@SenCapito) October 28, 2019
Manchin said Yeager is an important gateway to the state.
“I have worked closely with airport officials, the FAA and FEMA to secure the necessary funding for Yeager to rebuild its runways and continue to serve West Virginia and our visitors,” Manchin said. “As a member of the Transportation Credits Subcommittee, I included wording allowing the FAA to provide additional funding to the airport, and as a member of the Homeland Security Credits subcommittee, I made sure FEMA was doing its part as well. I always have our West Virginia airports in mind and will continue to make sure they get the funding they need. “
I am proud to announce a $ 3.1 million grant from @fema refund @YeagerAirport for the clean-up related to the runway collapse in 2015. To date, I have helped secure almost $ 25 million for the airport to recover from the runway collapse. FOLLOWING: https://t.co/DfeognxRwP
– Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) October 28, 2019
Keller said Yeager had no choice in 2015 but to go into debt to clean up the mess caused by the collapse.
“The airport went into debt on our own to clean up the breakdown, clean up all the debris and luckily we were able to get the federal law changed to have the Federal Aviation Administration pay for a rebuild, but for a long time, we were on ours, ”he said.
Yeager’s board of directors has filed a lawsuit against 15 companies that were instrumental in the initial $ 23 million construction completed in 2007. The airport received $ 8.3 million as part of a settlement announced in April.
Yeager board chairman Ed Hill said at the time that the collapse was not the airport’s fault.
“We had trusted the engineers when we started this project and it turned out that some things should have been done and were not done that we were not aware of and this resulted in this calamity,” he said. Hill said. “We trusted the people we hired to do it. I think this regulation justifies Yeager Airport and the management here.
According to Hill, Yeager’s losses included the cancellation of a popular flight to Dallas / Fort Worth by American Airlines.
“This income was over a million dollars. This is only one of the losses that we had to absorb, ”he said.
Keller said the $ 3.1 million grant announced on Monday would be enough to pay off Yeager’s debris removal debt and certain other debts associated with its new Capital Jet Center. Keller said the money gives the airport a good leap into the future.
“Our vision for the future of Yeager Airport is to be the most important economic engine for the state of West Virginia,” he said. “Receiving this money will help us pay down the debt and make investments to achieve this vision. “