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Council Assails Wilson on El Toro EIR

September 30, 1998|STEVE CARNEY

Saying County Supervisor Tom Wilson is a "puppet" of airport opponents, Newport Beach City Council members blasted his plan to alter an environmental report on the proposed El Toro airport.

Wilson said he's merely responding to the requests of constituents in his district, which includes Newport Beach.

Newport Beach officials support the creation of an airport at the closing El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, which would draw passengers and flights from John Wayne Airport, in the city's backyard. Wilson has expressed opposition to an El Toro airport, as have the South County cities that surround the base.

The environmental impact report for the conversion of El Toro lists seven options, A-G. Options F and G review the impact of no airport at El Toro and the expansion of John Wayne Airport.

Wilson recently asked county staff to research how deleting those options would affect the report as a whole.

"On the surface it would appear it would be good to get rid of those. No, it's not so," Newport Councilman Dennis D. O'Neil said. "It's just a devious ploy to trick us and have a document that would be invalidated in a court of law."

Council members said that if all the options are not retained, the environmental report could be deemed incomplete under the state Environmental Quality Act, which could delay conversion of the air base to an airport.

"The mere removal of F and G does nothing to limit the future expansion of [John Wayne Airport]," Newport Mayor Thomas C. Edwards said at Monday's council meeting. "It is literally public relations and window dressing in terms of these people, in my opinion."

County supervisors previously removed option D, the largest airport option for El Toro--33.5 million passengers per year--from the environmental impact report, and Wilson said county staff members did not believe that removing that option would invalidate the report.

"I'm just asking if F and G can't be treated the same way," Wilson said. "I wouldn't consider asking for additional information being devious in any way whatsoever."

He said he expected county staff to report on his request at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

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