By Deb Murphy
Most of the folks jammed into Mammoth Town Council’s chambers this past Tuesday had heard elements of the long-term air service strategy in the Eastern Sierra before. What few had heard were the three major players, Inyo County, Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Resorts, saying the same thing all in the same room.
Grady Dutton, Mammoth’s public works head, started with a brief run-down on Mammoth plans: Council had approved relocating the wind sock and putting up a wildlife hazard fence and improvements to the apron. Any other upgrades or improvements will get a second look in a year and be dependent on progress on the Bishop facility.
Pat Foster from Hot Creek Aviation made it fairly clear additional work would be necessary at Mammoth, especially in light of the wildland fire related traffic at the facility.
Clint Quilter, Inyo’s acting CAO, came with good news. The Federal Aviation Administration has a massive pot of money for supplemental Airport Improvement Programs. Better yet, Bishop and Lone Pine’s airports are the only ones in the district eligible for those funds. “That’s a game changer,” he said.
The timeline begins in October with the hiring of a consultant for both the federal and state environmental analysis. Phased construction would begin in the spring-summer of 2020 on essential components and the summer of 2021 for the supplemental work. Planes would be landing in 2020 or 2021.
According to Supervisor Jeff Griffiths, Allegiance Air “is a done deal” with a commitment to fly into Bishop twice a week.
Mammoth Resorts is committed to improving access, moving the season totals on the Mountain from the current 1.2 million up to 1.8 to 2 million, according to Eric Clark, corporate operations officer. Clark foresaw air service operations eventually moving to Bishop.
That sentiment wasn’t shared by either Inyo County or Mammoth Lakes. The consensus: there was a best use for each facility.