By Deb Murphy

Mark Brownlie

Mark Brownlie

Mark Brownlie, Mammoth Resorts’ president and chief operating officer, stressed the importance of access to the ski area at Wednesday’s Eastern Sierra Council of Governments meeting. When asked after the meeting if Mammoth Mountain had an official position on the best choice for regional service – Mammoth or Bishop – Brownlie tactfully said only that the Mountain supported a regional approach.

Remarks from the Mountain’s Eric Clark at last week’s Mammoth Lakes Tourism board meeting reported by The Sheet unequivocally supported Bishop as the provider of air service.

Whatever Mammoth Resorts’ actual position on the airport preference, the tide may be subtly turning down hill to the Owens Valley.

According to Inyo CAO Kevin Carunchio, the Airport Certification Manual was sent to the Federal Aviation Administration two weeks ago. The document will outline what’s needed for Bishop to support commercial air service and how much it could cost. The FAA’s review should take a maximum of three months according to Inyo Supervisor Jeff Griffiths.

ESCOG chair John Wentworth suggested the respective staffs—including Inyo and Mono counties, Bishop and Mammoth Lakes—could start discussions in what he called a “complex and interesting process.”

According to Mono Supervisor Bob Gardner, the FAA recommended the entities develop a Joint Powers Agreement to deal with airport issues. “We’re still uncertain where we’re headed,” he said. “We need to get to the point where we can say—where we are, what needs to be done—so the public knows.

Gardner pointed out the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority was a prime example of a regional solution to an Eastern Sierra issue. ESTA was also formed through a JPA. He noted Inyo’s statement of intent, a non-binding agreement to continue discussions toward regional service, was a precursor to a formal JPA.

Carunchio’s next step will be to take the statement to other stakeholders with the hope of filling in some of the financial blanks.

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