Thursday, December 9, 2004
Corte Madera Valley taken off airport list
By Jeff Ristine
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune
San Diego County’s airport agency and its public advisory group have taken steps to remove the Corte Madera Valley in East County and possibly other remote sites from the running as candidates for a regional airport. The advisory group on Tuesday recommended that Corte Madera not be considered in the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s analysis of possible sites to someday replace or augment Lindbergh Field.
A panel majority said the site, adjacent to two prime wilderness areas, offers no material benefits to overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles associated with developing a massive public facility on land partly within the Cleveland National Forest.
In separate action Monday, the agency’s board of directors agreed to assess distance and other “market realities” to shorten the list of nine possible locations now in play. The focus will be on nonmilitary sites in East County and Imperial County; one or more of them could be eliminated by February or March.
Tuesday’s recommendation from the Public Working Group, a panel of about 30 aviation stakeholders involved in the screening since 2002, goes to the nine-member authority board of directors in January.
Corte Madera had emerged from a computer-based sweep of protected lands excluded from a previous search.
Board members said that while they considered Corte Madera highly unlikely to merit serious consideration – it would take an act of Congress to make the area available – the location should be screened by the same standards applied to other prospective sites.
In the next step in the process of elimination, agency staff members and consultants will consider implications of distance and travel time from the population and employment centers that would be served by a new airport.
“Market reality” comes into play when planners try to determine how air travelers and airlines would react to the location. The study also will examine how the sites would tie into cargo distribution.
With that information, the airport agency then will consider whether to set criteria to exclude any site from further consideration – in essence, whether the market realities of one or more sites contain the same fatal flaws that have eliminated Oceanside, Ramona and Tijuana from consideration.
“At some point this board is going to have to bite the bullet and take (more) sites off the list,” said board member Mayor Mary Teresa Sessom of Lemon Grove.
The findings will be presented to an authority committee in January, then move to the full board for action in February or March. The agency hopes to identify a suitable location for a 3,000-acre, dual-runway airport early in 2006 and submit its choice to a countywide vote that November.
The market-reality analysis will focus upon four of the nine locations under review.
One is a cluster of sites around Boulevard and Manzanita in East County, referred to in airport studies as the “Campo Area,” about 65 miles east of downtown San Diego. The others are an area southeast of Borrego Springs, nearly 100 miles away, the southwestern Imperial County desert and the possible expansion of Lindbergh Field as an alternative to a new airport.
Five military installations on the list of possible airport sites remain excluded from any market analysis until next year, when the Department of Defense identifies a new round of proposed base closures.
Those sites are the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, East Miramar, Camp Pendleton, North Island Naval Air Station and the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County.
Sites surviving the market-reality analysis face still more screening. In this “second cut,” consultants will analyze each site for problems posed by weather conditions, the amount of environmental mitigation required and the cost of water, sewer service and other infrastructure.