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Tuesday, November 28, 2023


April 3, 2001 — Responding to doubts that his administration will be able to close the Anguilla Landfill on St. Croix in time to meet a Federal Aviation Administration deadline, Gov. Charles Turnbull Monday announced a plan to do so while keeping the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport open.
Turnbull’s statement comes after the V.I. Port Authority’s executive director, Gordon Finch, questioned whether the administration could actually meet the December 2002 closure deadline for the landfill. The FAA has the authority to decertify the runway and close the St. Croix airport if the deadline isn't met because birds that feed off the dump and smoke from repeated methane fires are a threat to aircraft.
The leadership of the V.I. Republican Party also criticized Turnbull this weekend for not taking more of an active role in the issue, particularly because of the impact runway decertification would have on the local tourism economy.
Finch said if the administration doesn’t meet the landfill closure deadline, millions of dollars in discretionary funds given to the Port Authority by the U.S. Department of Transportation for the expansion of the airport could cease and the funds already given turn into loans.
Turnbull, however, vowed that "under no circumstances" would he allow the airport to be closed.
"While the issue of safety is, of course, paramount, we must face economic reality and come up with a solution that will gain federal support and keep the airport open for business," Turnbull said.
The catch is that in order to close the landfill, a new waste management facility must be constructed. The administration is leaning toward a waste-to-energy gasification plant that will likely carry a price tag of between $150 million and $200 million. Such a facility would be the single most costly project ever undertaken by the V.I. government.
The dump is located on Port Authority land but operated by the Department of Public Works, which had forecast construction of the gasification plant to begin last month. A revised schedule now has construction beginning in about a year.
To assuage the FAA on the issue, Turnbull said he now has a two-prong plan to address the issue. The first aspect is to "fast track" the planning and construction process for the gasification facility. He said administration officials met last week with representatives from the company chosen to build the facility last November.
The second phase of the governor’s plan calls for hiring a firm to develop and implement an interim plan to address the bird and fire hazards. Turnbull said he will soon send a letter to the FAA administrator to seek support for the plan.
"Closure of the airport is something neither the FAA nor I believe is an acceptable solution," he said. "I remain confident that we can develop a solution that will be satisfactory to everyone."
Turnbull said the public must be educated about the severity of the crisis that now looms over the government.
"The process to close the landfill and construct a new comprehensive solid waste facility for the territory could cost upwards of $200 million," Turnbull said. "While we will continue to seek federal funds to mitigate the financial impact of the project, the public must understand the costs involved."
Despite the landfill issue, Delegate to Congress Donna Christian Christensen said Monday, the U.S. Transportation Department is set to award $2.7 million to the Port Authority for the renovation efforts currently underway at the Rohlsen Airport. The money was secured during the last Congress, she said.
The funds are to be used to rehabilitate runway lighting, acquire security equipment, install the vertical/visual runway guidance system, acquire land for approaches and rehabilitate the terminal building, she said.

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