In his last months in office, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., visited Jamestown Friday to offer help resolving issues with Essential Air Service and the Jamestown Regional Airport.

Dorgan completes his term as U.S. senator in North Dakota in January. As chairman of the Aviation Operations Committee, Dorgan helped the Jamestown Regional Airport offer a direct flight to Minneapolis, reduce fares and provide funding for the airport's new terminal set for groundbreaking in two to three weeks.

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The airport faced significant reductions in passenger boardings prior to the changes, said Jim Boyd, chairman of the Jamestown Regional Airport Authority Board. But since their implementation, boardings have increased by about 76 percent. In fact, the airport reported a record month in July, with 432 passengers taking to the sky from Jamestown. The average number of boardings in 2010 is 328 compared to 186 in 2007.

Boyd said he was concerned about funding for the Essential Air Service program. EAS is a federal government program which subsidizes services at the Jamestown Regional Airport and other rural areas of the country. Its contract with Jamestown expires next year.

Dorgan said he believed Congress would continue to fund the EAS program but was unsure as to what level.

Another concern Boyd voiced was that of Mesaba and Pinnacle's takeover. Mesaba is a regional airline operating as a Delta Connection carrier under service agreements with Delta. Under Pinnacle, Boyd questioned which aircraft the service would use and if the company would plan to bid for the next EAS contract in Jamestown.

Boyd said he feared negative issues would disrupt the increase in boardings.

Dorgan said it's important the community continue to support Jamestown's airport.

"If it's not used, it will get lost," he said.

Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at kryan@jamestownsun.com