Civilians Eye Miramar Base For San Diego Airport

Efforts to build a civilian airport at Camp Pendleton are over for now, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority has decided.

Instead, authority members want to build an airport at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and will ask voters in November for their support, setting the stage for a potential drawn-out battle between military brass and airport proponents.

Lindbergh Field, San Diego's existing airport, is the nation's busiest single-runway airfield and provides some residents in south Orange County with alternatives to Los Angeles and Orange County airports.

The airport authority, created in 2003, is charged with finding a way to solve San Diego's burgeoning passenger load at Lindbergh through expansion, efficiency or by building a brand new facility.

Board members the past three years have entertained ideas from the routine to the extreme. Among them: build a new airport at Camp Pendleton, North Island or March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County; erect a $23 billion magnetic levitation train shuttling passengers into the Imperial Valley; or try to make Lindbergh more efficient using emerging technology.

In a 7-2 vote Monday, the board decided to focus its efforts on Miramar after analysis that looked at the pros and cons of possible military/civilian joint use options. Voting against the plan were board members Mary Sessom, mayor of Lemon Grove, and Xema Jacobson.

Under the proposal, a new 3,000-acre airport with two runways, a terminal and parking facilities would spread across a portion of Miramar's 23,000-acre footprint.

Military leaders are vehemently against any proposal to build a civilian airport on any bases in the area and say the public should understand the consequences of relinquishing any land.

``Our mission is to provide for the security of this nation, and any civilian aviation operations at Miramar would negatively impact our ability to conduct that mission,'' Maj. Jason Johnston said in a written statement.

San Diego residents this fall will vote on a resolution asking them if they would support plans for the board to obtain the land at Miramar by 2020 with the intent on building an airport. A simple majority would be needed.

It would probably take 10-15 years to build an airport based on construction time, possible legal challenges and the environmental review process, said Steven Shultz, deputy director of public and community relations for the airport authority.

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