San Diego- Imperial County Desert Proposal in Question

Tuesday, October 4, 2005
Airspace problems could kill Imperial airport plan
The San Diego (CA) North County Times

Airspace problems that could cause major flight detours may force the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority to abandon a proposal to build a regional airport in the Imperial County desert. Restrictions over a military base in Imperial and over nearby Mexico could push flights hundreds of miles off course before landing at the proposed airport, said Angela Shafer-Payne, who is overseeing the search for a new regional airport.

Proponents of putting a new airport in Imperial County say such restrictions are commonly worked out by aviation officials and shouldn’t keep the region from building an air hub there.

The airport authority is charged with finding an airport site to replace or expand downtown’s Lindbergh Field, the which is projected to become overcrowded in the next decade.

One of the nine possible airport locations is in the Imperial County desert, more than 100 miles east of San Diego. Proponents of that site have pushed for the construction of a high-speed train to transport San Diego County passengers to and from the airport.

The authority is still studying the Imperial County site and will bring information about airspace restrictions to its board on Monday, Shafer-Payne said.

Nine possible airport sites have been identified, including local military bases and a location in the East San Diego County desert town of Campo. The authority won’t study the military possibilities until after the government finishes a new round of base closures later this year.

Imperial County airport supporters include Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, whose congressional district includes Imperial County.

Filner called the airspace restrictions a “red herring” being used by people who don’t want a regional airport outside of San Diego County.

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