The U.S. Department of Transportation announced today that Humboldt County is one of 33 communities to win its annual “Small Community Air Service Development” grants. All told, Humboldt County is promised $750,000 to try to persuade airlines to open up new routes to and from Eureka/Arcata Airport.

The grant — which the county applied for only last month — represents a big shot in the arm for the county’s aviation division, which in past years has lost routes to Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, and which earlier this year failed to close a deal with American Airlines to bring back service to LAX.

Emily Jacobs, a program manager with the aviation division, just told the Lost Coast Outpost that she’s fairly confident the grant will result in new service to Eureka/Arcata. In the past, the county had gone begging to new airlines to develop routes for the area; now, with a sizeable pot of cash in plain view, the airlines will likely be coming to us.

“One of things that airlines do is wait for this [list of grants] to come out,” Jacobs said.

The grant, which requires locals to come up with a 25 percent match, is earmarked specifically to develop routes east. But Jacobs said that this doesn’t mean that the failed American Airlines deal to LAX might not be revived. Theoretically, a route east might involve a fueling stop or a plane change at LAX — meaning that Humboldt might yet be able to service to SoCal as well as some sort of more expeditious path to a Midwestern hub such as Denver or Salt Lake. 

When we talked with her, Jacobs said that at that moment she wasn’t certain what sort of “use it or lose it” deadline came attached to the federal grant. But a meeting has been scheduled this afternoon between various county public works officials and people from the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, and Jacobs promised to keep us updated.