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Airports Close to Kristi Plan Biggest Upgrades, Joe May Help Foot Entire Bill

A rising tide may not lift all boats, but the Biden stimulus may lift Kristi’s planes…

At its Thursday meeting, the South Dakota Aeronautics Commission reviewed a list of 35 airport improvements around the state. The two largest aeronautical infrastructure projects in terms of dollars are $9,432,000 in upgrades to the Watertown airport, which is the closest airport to Kristi Noem’s house in Hamlin County, and $7,000,000 in improvements to the Pierre airport, which is Kristi Noem’s other frequent launching point for her national campaign travels. The three main airports in South Dakota—Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Aberdeen—have proposed upgrades worth $4,473,000, $4,000,000, and $5,000,000, respectively.

The big, bad federal government is already slated to cover 90% of the cost of all those airport upgrades. The Aeronautics Commission learned Thursday that President Biden’s American Rescue Plan may spare the state and local governments the remaining $4.7 million that they would have to pay to cover the remainder of those infrastructure improvements:

“So what are we going to do this year?” chairman Eric Odenbach of Eureka wondered.

Jack Dokken manages state government’s aeronautics office. He said the federal aid could be 90% FAA and 10% ARP. That’s short for American Rescue Plan, the giant funding package that Democrats in Congress passed at the request of President Joe Biden.

“There’s no guarantees yet. We reached out to the FAA last week and they still don’t know,” Dokken said [Bob Mercer, “Federal Government Likely Will Pay the Full Bill for South Dakota’s Airport Projects in 2021,” KELO-TV, 2021.04.16].

An outraged Governor Noem immediately tweeted that there’s no such thing as a free lunch—oh, no, wait, sorry: that’s a dispatch from an alternate universe where Republicans speak with consistency. The frequently flying Governor’s Office has expressed no opposition whatsoever to getting completely free airport upgrades from President Biden and the federal government. Hooray for big socialist funding of infrastructure projects!


  1. I’m no Dr. Seuss 2021-04-18 08:55

    …and then Kristi said, “Call me when you’re fixing my airports.”

  2. leslie 2021-04-18 10:00

    Educable, intelligent and wise leaders like Macron, Biden and others seize the virus challenge. Incompetents like Trump, Bolsonaro, Thune, Rounds, Johnson, and especially Noem and AG Ravnsborg, are a danger to all they encounter and lord over. Rounds, Trump and zzzzNoem are enamored with the allure of posh flight. Shallow inept Republican elected “leaders”. They attract whacky adherents the world over. Meth, we’re on it.

  3. o 2021-04-18 10:09

    This shows the difference between governance from the left and governance from the right. Our right state wants to make progress on some infrastructure projects, and the left steps in to help. When the left has projects to help people, the right blocks, denies, scuttles.

  4. mike from iowa 2021-04-18 10:31

    What makes magat Noem trust the feds to pay 90% of airport upgrades tomhelp relatively few people when the fed can’t be trusted to ppay 90% of Medicaid billks to help thousands and more get insurance?

  5. o 2021-04-18 10:49

    MFI, I guess airports help the “right” people, and Medicaid dies not.

  6. mike from iowa 2021-04-18 11:35

    O, that sounds like it was written into magat platform. Goobernor Noem’s airplane costs just tripled. Like magats used to accuse liberals of doing……Whatever will Noem do when she runs out of other people’s money to spend?

  7. o 2021-04-18 15:10

    MFI, as Donald Trump has shown, one NEVER has to run out of other people’s money to spend. If there ever comes a time that direct government payments dry up, one only needs to take that appeal directly to the people. Forget taxes, direct contributions is the funding wave of the future. And if one feels generous, one can cut the GOP in for a teeny slice and everyone is happy while the cash flows.

  8. mike from iowa 2021-04-18 15:35

    O, Citizen United is going to get a fresh look by new magat Scotus and appears the Koch Bro wants more money protected from oversight. I will look to see where I found this at.

    What politics needs is more dark money from unknown sources.

  9. Darrell Solberg 2021-04-18 15:36

    The infamous Governor of S.D. has once again has shown that she is high maintenance!!! But then again what Kristi wants Kristi gets, which has been that way all her life. She uses her big mouth to rail against socialism, that is until she can get her money grubbing hands on a hand out then everything is fine. It is absolutely shameful that she is abusiveness OF tax payer money for SELF GRATIFICATION and forwarding her political ambitions and it is tolerated by the majority party of S.D. I wonder why they don’t have to courage to stand up for all people of S.D. and NOT just the Governor!!

  10. Donald Pay 2021-04-18 15:54

    Airports, I guess, are infrastructure, but are they really all that necessary? I understand stuff gets transported on airplanes these days, but I doubt many “real people” use these facilities. Other than a stretch of time in the 1990’s, when I flew about six times a year, I used airports a handful of times in my life. I was never a frequent flyer. Liz worked for Mileage Plus in Rapid City for a couple years. From her experience it was mostly business travelers and wealthy folks who clogged up the airport infrastructure. I would hate to screw up safety in air travel, since my daughter takes planes for long distance travel to and from China. My feeling is we could have safer airport infrastructure if we cut down on the dinky airports, like Watertown. I hate to say this because some of my friends have worked in these dinky airports.

    My feeling is air travel for ski vacations and business travel and such shouldn’t be subsidized by federal infrastructure projects. Their ticket prices should reflect the cost of building this infrastructure. I don’t mind subsidizing improvements for freight and getting to funerals for family members.

    Instead of these dinky airports, people could build a better rail infrastructure, many even with passenger trains.

  11. Arlo Blundt 2021-04-18 16:11

    well…I hate to argue with Don Pay, but this is a wonderful windfall for Pierre which somehow, someway must move up to first class city status for our state to thrive. We can’t have a “Mud Hut” capital city with a tin roof airport suitable only for biplanes.Now, its true the Governor will probably benefit from better facilities but so will government and business flyers, who, as Don points out, are the majority of passengers. Let it be. We need to keep the faucets open and the money flowing…in the dim hope that it will trickle down. It may not be justice, but its the way South Dakota works in 2021. It would be much better devoted to an expansion of Medicare/Medicaid but that’s not going to happen with this cast of characters.

  12. grudznick 2021-04-18 17:16

    Mr. Blundt, are you suggesting the Governor uses the fancy public terminal already built in Pierre with federal gravy dollars, or just that she might benefit from a smoother runway when she departs her super-fancy private hangar and frequent flier lounge?

  13. Arlo Blundt 2021-04-18 17:57

    Well…Mr. Grudznick…I have not been in the fairly recently revamped Pierre terminal or, for that matter, the Governor’s hanger but I’m rather certain it was designed in “the South Dakota Modern” motif, brought to us by the late architect of so many of our public buildings, Harold Spitznagel…I would call his tastes “modestly Norwegian Lutheran”.I’m rather certain anything built in Pierre or Watertown will be similar in style and accentuate functionality over any glitz or structural flamboyance. I would like to see things named for South Dakota aviation pioneer Clyde Ice at the Pierre airport and perhaps a lasting display of his contributions to modern transportation in our state. I believe the airport in Spearfish is named for him. I flew out of Pierre with him a couple times when he was over 80. It was a great experience.

  14. T 2021-04-18 19:23

    Any stats out there on out of state travelers coming in vs residents using these airports?

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-04-19 06:07

    On airport usage: In 32 years, I’ve flown thirteen times through Sioux Falls and once out of Rapid City. During my six years here in Aberdeen, I’m pretty sure the Amazon packages I’ve orders have all flown into Sioux Falls and then come up I-29 and the Tom Daschle Freeway by truck.

    The Rapid City Airport’s monthly report just gives total passengers—in January, 11,820 getting on, 11,730 getting off, total down 44.5% from Jan 2020 and down 39.6% from the 2018–2020 average—no breakdown of where those passengers were from.

    At Sioux Falls, airport arrivals over the 12 months through January 2021 are 271K, departures are 267K, down more than 52% from the comparable preceding 12-month period.

    To T’s question, while I don’t have an answer, South Dakota could argue that if we have a larger number of out-of-state visitors using our airports than locals, then that’s all the more reason for Uncle Sam to continue subsidizing our infrastructure, since those federal dollars are serving a nationwide customer base.

  16. leslie 2021-04-19 06:19

    23m [5am mst]
    Perseverance got us to Mars. With Ingenuity, we soar higher.

    The #MarsHelicopter made history today by being the first craft to achieve controlled, powered flight on a planet beyond Earth.

  17. leslie 2021-04-19 06:32

    SF 271,000 vs RC 22,820 av arrivals-wow!

    Kristi’s WT 2021 fed upgrade $9.4M vs SF <$4.5M vs RC $4M. Interesting.

    My dad’s plane never returned to RC and rests at top of a NE sandhill still.

  18. mike from iowa 2021-04-19 07:32

    Near as I can figure from Cory’s comment above, the 10 million bucks for noem’s closest 2 airports will be spent on spiffy ads to increase passenger rates. Imagine, if you will, this brilliant ad….”Airplanes. like meth, we’re on it.”

    That’ll be 5 million bucks, please and thanks.

  19. Arlo Blundt 2021-04-19 14:50

    Well…I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. We can argue about the beknighted Governor’s priorities. As usual, she is adrift and who knows how she arrived at the unusual decision point of moving Pierre and Watertown to the top of the list. But….its construction jobs mostly that these funds will pay for and construction projects like these are bedrock economics for young working people in South Dakota. Seasonal Construction jobs put a lot of young people through college, buy a lot of used cars, and make payments on starter homes.

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