"You don't tell our Marines, you don't tell our brave soldiers that we're taking your base," said Filner, who pushed unsuccessfully for an airport in Imperial County linked by a high-speed magnetic levitation train. "Readiness, training, preparation, support for our troops revolves around keeping Miramar as a Marine air station."
Hunter said the language he inserted into the defense spending bill ought to be enough to settle the matter.
Issa and Bilbray mentioned keeping Lindbergh as the main airport but shifting smaller aircraft elsewhere.
"We could have a 50-seat minimum at this airport" for aircraft, said Issa, who pilots his own small plane, "and with proper funding move the aircraft to other places. That is doable."
Issa also criticized the Airport Authority for giving short shrift to the concept of a link between Lindbergh Field and a proposed civilian runway at North Island. The authority ruled out a second runway at North Island primarily because of complications posed by crosswinds.
Bilbray said he supports a high-speed transportation link to the Los Angeles basin as a way of eliminating commuter flights between the two metropolitan areas.
And Davis, whose district includes Point Loma neighborhoods where residents long for an end to ever-increasing aircraft noise, said, "I think San Diegans want closure on this issue. ... I think they'd like to see Lindbergh improved."
The Airport Authority is already working on a plan to add 10 gates to Terminal 2, but says it expects operations will have reached capacity by 2022. Officials say proposals to move cargo and general aviation to other airfields won't relieve enough pressure to avert a crunch.
"The easy position to take is, `Hey it's not a problem today and we don't need to think about moving,' " Chalker said. "That's great, except this is not about today. This is about tomorrow."
Mark Ballassare, director of research at Public Policy Institute of California and a specialist on state and local government relations, said the tiff looks like "a real interesting federal-versus-local fight." He noted the pressure on Southern California to expand its airports.
North County, CA's largest business group decided recently to back the Miramar airport ballot measure.
Building a new regional airport in sparsely populated Imperial County could see that county moved from its long-standing seat in coach to first-class among Southern California power brokers.
What looks impossible today could be more realistic in two decades as F-18 jets are phased out of Miramar.
The nine-member Regional Airport Authority will revisit the issue of finding a new airport site in January