Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
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Port of entry again main focus at airport

MARATHON -- The Florida Keys Marathon's Airport Manager Don DeGraw updated the City Council last week about the county's efforts to establish a port of entry for international travelers at the facility.

Meanwhile, the long-debated matter of moving the runway in order to meet a Federal Aviation Administration requirement regarding the appropriate distance between runways and taxiways has been resolved with no action required.

An environmental assessment indicated that moving the runway to the north would have negative consequences to the hardwood hammock and native species, while moving it to the south would cause logistical problems with available ramp space. Any form of relocation would have required shutting down the airport for several months. The resulting loss of income and the financial implications of construction were considerable.

With an unprecedented blessing from FAA, the airport will take no corrective action.

Going forward, the airport's most pressing matter involves coordination with the federal government to meet safety requirements for the airport's buildings, DeGraw said.

Monroe County Commissioner David Rice, who also spoke about the airport, told the council that the architectural design for renovating the main terminal area is currently under review by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

"We're about 85 percent complete," he said.

The current schedule calls for completing the port of entry by next August, but Rice was quick to say it's only a projected date. The timeline could lag if Customs is slow to respond to the modifications it requests. He suggested Marathon could be caught in a back-and-forth game if the agency decides further changes to the architectural design are needed.

According to DeGraw, the airport obtained a $120,000 grant from FAA to be used to improve the airport's wastewater system and connect to the city's central sewer system.

DeGraw pledged continued support for the construction of a bicycle path on the backside of Aviation Boulevard. He offered to maintain a robust working relationship with the project's champions, Rice and Councilman Dick Ramsay, until the bike path becomes a reality.

In the effort to improve the aesthetics of airport grounds, DeGraw said 75 trees have been planted. He assured the council that another 60 sabal palms will be planted in the near future to soften the property's appearance from U.S. 1.

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