Thursday, March 24, 2005
Sites list for airport irks some lawmakers
Don’t consider bases in region, they insist
By Jeff Ristine
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune
San Diego County’s congressional delegation and the state’s two U.S. senators have vehemently denounced a regional airport board over its plans for considering military installations as possible replacements for Lindbergh Field. A May meeting on the issue, scheduled for the day after the Pentagon releases a list of proposed military base closings, should be put off until November, the elected officials said in a letter sent Tuesday to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
“We find it astonishing that despite the uniformity we have on this issue, you have continued discussions regarding alternative use of these bases,” said the letter, released yesterday.
Board Chairman Joseph W. Craver, who saw the letter Tuesday while visiting the delegation’s congressional offices in Washington, said it “really surprised me.” He said the board has been careful not to undermine local support for the bases.
The letter was addressed to Craver and signed by Republican Reps. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa, Democratic Reps. Bob Filner and Susan Davis and Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.
Craver and the rest of the authority board had pledged to defer analysis of Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, Camp Pendleton, North Island Naval Air Station and two other military installations while elected officials and civic leaders lobby to protect them from the base closure process.
But the letter points to a sharp difference of opinion on the milestone that needs to be achieved before planners and consultants can begin studying the locations, even as a hypothetical exercise.
This November would represent the tail end of the Base Realignment and Closure process, after the Pentagon’s list has been acted upon by a commission, approved or disapproved by the president, and transmitted to Congress.
The airport authority is bound by state legislation to place a site recommendation before voters by November 2006. Planners and consultants previously have said they need the list of options trimmed from the current nine to about three no later than January.
The consultants are studying such matters as access, airspace, infrastructure costs and other developmental matters, a process that is taking several months to accomplish for civilian sites in Boulevard, near Borrego Springs and in the Imperial County desert.
When it set the May 17 meeting date this month, the board figured to have some idea which military locations, if any, might become available. Besides Miramar, Camp Pendleton and North Island, it also hopes to look at the potential of the Marines’ undeveloped East Miramar base, March Air Reserve base near Riverside and an expansion of Lindbergh Field onto land occupied by the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.
The lawmakers said it would be irresponsible to study any military site before November, suggesting the list issued in May won’t necessarily end a critical debate over the fate of San Diego’s bases.
“The notion that the Airport Authority would continue to move forward with this process and actively undermine the unified . . . efforts of the entire California delegation, the City of San Diego and the Governor’s office to protect San Diego’s military infrastructure is alarming,” the letter said.
Craver said: “We have done everything that we have committed to do to support the (base closure) process. . . . What more could we do?”