San Diego

Tuesday, November 2, 2004
Airport panel keeps site near forest on radar
By Jeff Ristine
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune

In a sharply divided move, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority yesterday said East County’s Corte Madera Valley should remain in the running as a possible regional airport location for now even though it is unlikely ever to be considered seriously. The authority’s board of directors voted 5-4 to ask a public advisory group previously involved in the site-selection project to weigh in on the Corte Madera Valley proposal. The location lies partly within Cleveland National Forest and is adjacent to two revered wilderness areas.

Facing strong opposition from the U.S. Forest Service and property owners in nearby Pine Valley, several board members acknowledged the many drawbacks to the site, including a poor water supply and the way an airport would change an area known for peace and quiet.

The board members also said they felt obligated to honor a screening process that has required even the most improbable sites – including Ramona, the Silver Strand and an offshore “floating” airport – to be rejected for clearly defined reasons.

“There is a process and guidelines you have to go through,” said board member Terry Johnson, the mayor of Oceanside.

The Public Working Group, an appointed advisory panel that has met on the airport issue periodically since 2001, will be asked to study and assess Corte Madera Valley on the same terms used to trim 32 potential sites to seven.

The public group, which includes representatives of public agencies, the military, environmental groups, business, aviation regulators and airport users, also was involved in a decision to add sites near Campo and Borrego Springs to the list of sites, making a current total of nine. For now, Corte Madera isn’t on the list – the agency simply is mulling whether to add it.

A member of the group, John Chalker, said “patience and consistency” should keep Corte Madera Valley in play awhile longer.

Many of the arguments being heard against Corte Madera apply equally well to the nine sites on the list, Chalker said. Without subjecting all sites to a common test, he said, “it would be wrong to delete one and not the other.”

The nine sites – Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, the undeveloped East Miramar adjunct, Camp Pendleton, North Island Naval Air Station, March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, the Imperial County desert, an expanded Lindbergh Field, and the regions near Campo and Borrego Springs – survived a set of criteria that considered the residential population that would have to be moved, noise, endangered species and the amount of grading required to develop an airport.

In the second, more intensive round of analysis, consultants are considering such issues as cost, security and safety, and how each site probably would be received by travelers and airlines.

Board members Joseph W. Craver, Xema Jacobson, William D. Lynch and Paul A. Peterson joined Johnson in calling for further analysis of Corte Madera Valley. Paul Nieto, Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Teresa Sessom, Ted Reynolds and San Diego City Councilman Ralph Inzunza were opposed.