Berg tours Jamestown airport, GREU.S. Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., toured the renovated Jamestown Regional Airport and Great River Energy’s Spiritwood Station Wednesday. “The airport is immaculate. It’s in great shape,” Berg said following the tours.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
U.S. Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., toured the renovated Jamestown Regional Airport and Great River Energy’s Spiritwood Station Wednesday.
“The airport is immaculate. It’s in great shape,” Berg said following the tours.
Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen, Airport Manager Matt Leitner and Jim Boyd, Jamestown Regional Airport Authority chairman, showed Berg the newly-renovated airport Wednesday morning.
The group discussed the progress Great Lakes Aviation and Delta Air Lines have made on improving service to the airport since a meeting of government and airline officials in Washington, D.C., in June.
Great Lakes has held the U.S. Department of Transportation contract for Essential Air Service for JRA since mid-March, when it took over from Delta Air Lines.
In the immediate wake of the changeover, flight reliability plunged, and only about 50 percent of flights to the JRA were on time. Meanwhile, boardings at JRA collapsed, from 797 in February to just 185 in April.
At the Washington meeting, JRAA officials and government officials — including Berg — gave Delta and Great Lakes a list of problems that needed to be solved, and asked both airlines to respond with specific solutions.
Since then, flight reliability has improved to approximately 80 percent, Leitner told Berg during the tour, and even when planes are late, they are late 15 minutes rather than two, three or four hours.
“We’ve been meeting with Great Lakes and I think we’ve made some progress,” Berg said.
He added that EAS was designed for small communities so that they could increase their boardings to become self-sustaining — and that Jamestown was a good example of what EAS could do.
“We’re going to go back to Great Lakes after this and my goal is to thank them for the things they’ve done, but also hold them accountable,” Berg said.
Leitner listed a few things that have yet to be implemented by Great Lakes and Delta, including installing a computer terminal in JRA that would be compatible with other carriers, and allowing flights from Jamestown to Minneapolis to accrue SkyMiles.
July boardings at JRA were up 20 percent from the previous month, Leitner said, adding “we need to regain that lost ground as soon as we can.”
“We hope to someday be back where we were in February,” Andersen said.
During a tour of the Great River Energy facility, Paul Solomonson, the leader of plant engineering for Spiritwood Station, told Berg the plant is one of the cleanest ones in the country when operating. Spiritwood Station, located south of Spiritwood, N.D., can produce steam as well as 99 megawatts of electricity. The steam is supplied to the nearby Cargill Malt plant.
After the tour, Berg said the facility was a “$400 million investment that’s sitting idle because of federal rules.”
Berg was a cosponsor of the REINS (Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny) Act, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2011, which would have required a congressional vote prior to the imposition of any major regulation of $100 million or more.
“The challenge we have now is agencies legislating by regulation and not having the checks and balances on regulations like we do in North Dakota,” Berg said.
According to Lyndon Anderson, North Dakota communications supervisor for Great River Energy, the primary reason Spiritwood Station is not in full operation is because electricity prices and the market do not support it, due to the effects of the recession in the U.S. The plant was completed in 2011 and was put into standby mode in November.
Currently, the facility employs 11 full-time workers. If it were operating at its full capacity, it would employ 25, Solomon said.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at