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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 26, 2003

Midway field to stay open in October

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will keep the Midway Atoll airfield open at least through October, after receiving a special appropriation from Congress for that purpose.

"We are assured of enough short-term funding to extend the contract for one month," said Barbara Maxfield, public information officer of the federal agency.

Chugach McKinley has been running the Midway airfield and other facilities on the remote atoll for the past five months under a contract that ends Tuesday. It will be authorized to keep the field open through October under a $500,000 supplemental appropriation for fiscal 2003 attached to legislative appropriations for fiscal 2004.

The same appropriations bill provided the service with $4.5 million to continue to pay for cleanup of a major jet fuel spill at the atoll, caused when a corroded fitting failed on an oil pipeline. Nearly 83,000 gallons spilled over the weekend of Feb. 8 and 9. Contractor GeoEngineers is handling the cleanup.

Maxfield said the service will continue to seek money for the long-term operation of the Midway airport. The field is used as an emergency mid-Pacific landing site for trans-oceanic flights, as well as a stopping place for Coast Guard law enforcement and rescue aircraft.

Midway utilities such as the water and power systems will be operated by Chugach as well, but will be paid for out of the Fish and Wildlife Service's operating funds, she said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service had been preparing for shutting down the commercial field and removing most personnel from the atoll, which is a national wildlife refuge.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.