Senator Isakson Asks For Federal Funding to Relocate St. Marys Airport

Today, Senator Johnny Isakson announced that he has filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will secure federal funding to relocate St. Marys Airport away from the nearby Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base.

From Senator Isakson’s press release:

The current location of the Camden County, Ga., airport has for years raised serious national security concerns given its proximity to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, which is home to the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, making the base a critical player in one-third of our strategic nuclear arsenal.

 Isakson’s amendment would provide for the move to be completed through coordination between the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense, which has now signaled its willingness to assume a portion of the costs associated with the move.

The St. Marys Airport has been a trouble spot for years now. It is only one mile south of the naval base, which is home to submarines armed with thermonuclear weapons. After the September 11th terrorist attacks, the airport was temporarily closed by the FAA. It reopened in December 2001, but the Navy continued to press for its permanent closure. Navy officials were initially worried that a plane crash could disrupt operations, but later they became concerned with the growing number of skydivers that were landing at the base. In 2012, the Navy formally requested that the airport be moved.

While the cost of moving the airport may no longer be an important issue, St. Marys will likely face resistance on other fronts, particularly from environmental groups. In 2009, Satilla Riverkeeper and St. Marys Earthkeepers both opposed a proposed relocation site near Woodbine because it would have threatened wetlands and runoff into the Satilla River. Other proposed sites were OK’d by the environmental groups, but St. Marys would have had to use eminent domain to condemn the properties. City officials have been reluctant to do so in the past.

Senator Isakson’s amendment is just one of many being offered to the Senate version of the NDAA this week. The House passed its version of the NDAA in mid-May. Georgia Representative Buddy Carter (R) successfully offered a similar amendment that funds the airport relocation. Once the Senate passes its version of the NDAA, it will have to be reconciled with the House version and approved by President Obama. If the Isakson-Carter amendment survives, it will then fight for a place in the next defense appropriation bill which could be at the forefront of another 11th hour omnibus showdown before government spending dries up in late September.

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EllynnWill DurantMattMD_actualAndrew C. Pope Recent comment authors
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Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Why does St. Mary’s need an airport? You’ve got St. Simons, Brunswick, Jesup, Folkston, Waycross, Nahunta, Jacksonville Executive, Cecil (Jacksonville), Herlong (Jacksonville), Hilliard, Fernandina Beach, and Yulee all close by.

MattMD_actual
MattMD_actual

Ok, so the airport has been a trouble spot for years (decade plus?) yet NOTHING even remotely threatening has happened except issues with skydivers?

I don’t see how this is at all a priority. The Navy can go pound sand.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Alternatively, the Navy can just go back to its original position of wanting to close the airport.

After all, Camden won’t need an airport once the space travel industry starts to takes off. (pun intended)

Will Durant
Will Durant

Because the Navy does everything possible to obscure the activities and whereabouts of the boomers. They play shell games with their barns, launch dates, etc. and probably feel that say, someone doing touch and gos from the current ‘airport’ could get too much info from sideways views into their restricted airspace. Their location in the world remaining secret is still our best MAD deterrent.

MattMD_actual
MattMD_actual

What are you talking about? They become obscure not too long after they are underway.

Has this ever been a problem before, even at Cold War tensions? This base has been around longer than I’ve been alive.

MattMD_actual
MattMD_actual

Also, you have to remember that the Russians and Chinese have these contraptions called satellites. I doubt any serious threat relies on “touch and go’s”.

Will Durant
Will Durant

Suffice it to say they want a larger restricted airspace. They are vulnerable when they are under tow. Georgia has benefited more than most realize since this base was converted for the Ohio-class submarines back in the mid-eighties which was ~$2Billion investment. They will not be pulling out anytime in the near future, it is unlikely we would ever see it go. They have a lot of land surrounding them already and have been good stewards of it ecologically.

Ellynn
Ellynn

The base at times closes access to the airport with little to no notice. This has become an issue to people who use the strip (my employer being one of them). They have also limited the number of vehicles that can be parked at the airstrip. The airport is used mainly by business traffic for small planes during the week. The larger Brunswick and Saint Simons strips are more aligned for commercial crafts and private jets, and a Gulfstream facility.