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County Collects Fees For Air Tanker Landings

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Every time a CDF airtanker takes off from and lands at the Columbia Airport, Tuolumne County collects a fee from the state.

Tuolumne County Airports Director Jim Thomas explains aircraft that weigh more than 12,500 pounds have to pay the airport just under a dollar for every 1,000 pounds the plane weigh.

A CDF airtanker, fully loaded with fire retardant, can weigh more than 29,000 pounds. Thomas says the state pays the county about $25 every time one of their tankers takes off to fight a wildfire from Columbia Air Attack Base.

Starting with the 2003 fire season, new state procedures were put in place to reimburse airports for the fees, revising the purchase order process.

“We used to invoice the CDF for landing fees and they changed the contracting procedures to a clear distinction between goods and services,” says Thomas.

Since the airport could no longer just invoice the state for the landing fees, the county had to enter into a contract agreement with CDF.

A new 1 year-contract was presented to the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors in April of this year. That contract was to cover all overdue landing fees plus all fees anticipated between signing and June 30 of this year.

Thomas says because of the backlog of paperwork, CDF was behind in making payments to the airport. “They were about $15,355 in the arrears,” Thomas says, adding: “We do have the contract in place and I´m told, the payment is in the mail.”

A contract for the period of July 2004 through June 30, 2005 is currently being drafted.

Thomas told county supervisors at time the ultimate solution to the landing fee issue is to re-write the CDF Fire Attack Base lease to include a provision for repayment of landing fees as part of the monthly land lease agreement. But an expedited lease revision is not in the immediate future, Thomas says.