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Ishigaki to finally get a new airport

Date Posted: 2005-12-22

It has taken 30 years, but will now become reality.

Decades of bickering between environmentalists and those wanting an airport capable of supporting a larger tourism base has finally been resolved, and a new Y32 billion airport will begin construction early in the new year. The need for a new airport was identified in 1976, and plans developed for a 2,000 meter runway. Three times over the years those plans were changed after sharp clashes from activists opposed to potentially damaging Ishigaki’s world renowned coral reefs.

The new airport will open in 2013. Ishigaki City Mayor Chosho Ouhama says “This is great. This is our big Christmas present.” The ddcision by the State and the National Land and Transportation Agency clears the way for the new airport construction at a hillside site on the estern part of the island. Original plans called for creating landfill off the Shiraho coast, known for its rare coral reefs.

Money has been appropriated, and land will be purchased from individual owners within weeks.

Some 630 activists are still threatening to block the project, claming the new airport would cause soil runoff that could damage coral. They say a species of bats could be affected.

The current airport is restricted because of its 1,500 meters long runway. A 1982 runway overrun caused concern and fears of larger disaster, and larger aircraft have been prohibited from landing at Ishigaki. That has been a problem because airlines have shifted to larger, more efficient aircraft. Ishigaki needs the larger aircraft and the tourists that fly in them, to build its economy.

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