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El Toro Airport Viewed as Curse, Blessing

September 12, 1993

* The Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro has been an airfield for 50 years. It has the infrastructure to support a major airport for another 50 years or more. The very vocal, frenetic homeowner groups opposing any thought of conversion to commercial air because of fears (groundless) of noise and reduced property values are wrong. A large commercial airport, a la LAX, will benefit Orange County for decades to come.

Meanwhile, homeowners nearby will come and go. They will buy, sell, move, and otherwise change many times over the next 50 years. Politicians, always eyeing the next election, will undoubtedly give this loud transitory minority more attention than the long-term positive benefits of a commercial airport to the entire county.

The El Toro and Tustin bases offer many new alternatives and opportunities, including a world-class airport. I would urge the decision makers to adopt statesmanship over expediency; look long term, not short term.

ROBERT E. THOMAS

Orange

* Several years ago I was one of the first private citizens to become aware of the then confidential plan by the County of Orange to upgrade the James Musick Jail to a medium/maximum security facility. With that early warning the community was able to rally and defeat that scheme. The current threat to the quality of life in south Orange County is the creation of a commercial airport following the closure of El Toro Marine Corps Air Base. The preliminary information indicates that the chips are stacked heavily in favor of the commercial airport crowd.

The wisest course of action to ensure an airport-free environment is for Irvine to annex the property. This process will entail a bitter and protracted battle with the county supervisors, but it is doable with the full support of the other South County cities. That is the most expedient way to ensure conversion to a civilian use that the surrounding communities can live with. It would be a major mistake for the leadership of the fledgling cities to accept an advisory role or any other subordinate position the county may offer.

MARCEL J. FERNANDEZ

Lake Forest

* Mark P. Petracca in his commentary ("Letting Market Decide 'Best' Use of El Toro Ignores the Public" Aug.29) is correct in objecting to Rep. Christopher Cox's proposed legislation to privatize the property and sell the base to the highest bidder. Cox (R-Newport Beach) knows very well that the bidders for the property would probably come from the wealthy Newport Beach businessmen who are intent on converting the base to a commercial airport.

But Petracca's recommendation to have the Board of Supervisors place an initiative on the earliest possible ballot to allow voters to rank in order their preferences for the future use of the base has serious shortcomings.

One should hesitate before rushing such an initiative to the ballot since the various uses have not been explored or even discussed, much less evaluated for cost and environmental impact. Moreover, it would allow powerful financial groups who want to convert the airport to commercial use to launch their campaign for such use in a blitzkrieg of TV sound bites which would favor their program.

Even if somewhat more economical than other recommended uses, the future use of the base should not include a commercial airport which would prove a permanent source of noise and air pollution and traffic nuisance to hundreds of thousands of residents who live adjacent to or close to the airport.

Final decision of the use of the El Toro site should rest with those who will be most affected by such use and that should be by the residents of the cities adjacent to and near the site.

DAVID E. GAREN

Mission Viejo

* The North/South wars are on for sure. And it's all about an airport for the good of north Orange County. I am a retired pilot of many years who now lives in Leisure World, Laguna Hills. In addition, I operated a flying club and school at then-Orange County Airport when commercial flights began.

I would challenge anyone to name an airport where people in the flight path have not suffered greatly. It is unreasonable to think otherwise. To virtually destroy this community and others in the flight path would be a shameful thing.

G. CROFFOT

Laguna Hills

* The future of El Toro Marine Corps Air Station is of great importance to the 2.3 million people who live and work in Orange County. With 4,700 acres for reuse consideration, a number of community needs can be met in addition to commercial use of the existing runways.

We understand the concerns of some who feel commercial operations will bring additional noise to the area; however, this is a total misconception. For example, in 1992 operations at El Toro with extremely noisy F-18 fighters, KC-130 tankers and other aircraft totaled 111,861 operations. At John Wayne Airport the total for the same period was 90,603 with quieter Stage III aircraft and accommodated 5,672,603 passengers.

At a future date, we suggest carefully measured noise trials be held with Stage III commercial aircraft over established flight patterns to forcefully demonstrate that the noise will be far less than that now generated. We need a second airport to accept the growth forecast for both passenger and air cargo service that cannot be accommodated at John Wayne.

Special attention should be given to a statement from the former base commander, Gen. W.A. Bloomer, who stated, "converting El Toro to an operational civilian airport is essentially a turnkey operation. Air cargo and general aviation operations could commence immediately."

A commercial airport at El Toro will bring improved air transportation and thousands of jobs for the people of Orange County, and we urge early action in this direction.

EUGENE H. MORIARTY

Chairman, Committee for El Toro

Airport Tomorrow

Santa Ana

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