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EL TORO AIRPORT: A CRUCIAL VOTE

What's Next

December 11, 1996

A chain reaction will occur if the Orange County Board of Supervisors approves a controversial environmental impact report and endorses going ahead with plans to develop a commercial passenger-cargo airport at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Such a vote would forward a base reuse proposal to the U.S. Department of the Navy to meet a Dec. 30 deadline.

* At the local level: County staffers and hired consultants would begin crafting a detailed, specific reuse plan for the 4,700-acre military base. Expected to take more than a year, it must get the approval of several oversight commissions, including the county Planning Commission and the El Toro Citizens Advisory Commission.

* Board of Supervisors: The board will make the final call on how to reuse the military base--a decision likely to be two years away.

* The Pentagon: Conducting its own environmental impact report, likely to take a year or more, the military will rely on some of the county's data.

* The Navy secretary: Will ultimately decide whether to give the county the surplus military base that began operations in 1943 and later became the largest Marine air installation in the western U.S. It played a key role as a military launching point during the Persian Gulf War.

* Retirement: The base, targeted for closure in 1993 as a cost-saving measure, is expected to be retired by mid-1999.

If supervisors reject the environmental document, there would be confusion over how to proceed. That's because a majority of county voters in 1994 approved Measure A, which calls for the development of an airport at El Toro unless it is deemed infeasible. Voters rejected an attempt earlier this year to overturn Measure A. The incoming Board of Supervisors could revisit the issue early next year, or the matter could be placed on the ballot once again in an effort to overturn Measure A. If voters again endorse an airport, the county would be required to start the airport study process all over again.

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