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Transportation Department Criticized For Changing Towns' Essential Air Service Provider

Left: Pierre Regional Airport, Right: Watertown Regional Airport

Earlier this year the Department of Transportation changed the Essential Air Service provider for the Pierre and Watertown airports. The change met with negative reactions from the community and politicians. 

Shan Kruse is the president of the Watertown Airport Board. He says the community was shocked by the decision. 

“The federal DOT does ask the community what their opinion is, but that is but one small part. It previously has been a very large part. They very rarely have gone against the community’s wishes.” 

Kruse says the mayors of both cities have sent their concerns to the DOT. 

Representative Dusty Johnson, Senator Mike Rounds and Senator John Thune sent a joint statement to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg asking the DOT to issue a rebid. 

While there hasn’t been an official response to their statement or the other letters, Johnson says there have been a lot of conversations. 

“This is not going to be something where one letter gets the job done, we’re going to need to keep working as a team and we’re going to do that.” 

Johnson says people in those communities should continue to raise their concerns and work with their local government.