El Toro Issue Spurs Irvine to Join Suit
Irvine officials voted Tuesday to join the lawsuit against the agreement for the expansion of John Wayne Airport because of concern over the potential use of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station by commercial airline traffic, as well as military flights.
Irvine Mayor Dave Baker said the city was “very supportive” of last week’s compromise by Newport Beach and Orange County to allow limited expansion of John Wayne Airport, which for years was the subject of noise complaints by residents of Santa Ana Heights and Newport Beach.
But Baker said Irvine was opposed to the county Board of Supervisors’ scrapping of resolutions of opposition to joint civilian and military use of the El Toro air field.
Baker said Irvine objected to any attempt to use El Toro for civilian air traffic. The Defense Department is also opposed to joint use of the facility.
The City Council decided Tuesday night to hire a law firm and join a suit against the county and the airport in federal court. Baker said, however, that he and other city officials would meet with others involved in the issue to see if a compromise can be reached before the city goes to court.
Baker said Irvine learned only two weeks ago that the county was rescinding two resolutions opposing the use of El Toro by civilian aircraft. The same provision was of concern to Supervisor Bruce Nestande, who last week voted against the portion of the settlement dealing with the repeal of the El Toro resolutions.
“No one has given me a good reason why they have had to rescind the resolutions against joint use of El Toro,” Baker said. “We support the resolution of the John Wayne Airport (controversy). The City of Newport and the county have worked very hard on that. However, we don’t want to trade the resolution of the problem on one border of our city for the possibility of opening up something in another part of our city,” the mayor added.
Last week’s settlement of much of the pending federal lawsuit must be approved by the U.S. District Court judge who has been hearing the matter. The agreement allows the airport to handle a maximum of 4.75 million passengers a year for at least the next five years, and 8.4 million passengers per year after that until the year 2005.
Residents of Newport Beach and Santa Ana Heights wanted the county to search for a site for an additional airport in the county to ensure that John Wayne Airport is not further expanded in 20 years. The supervisors refused, but did scrap the resolution on El Toro and another saying there is no site for another commercial aviation airport in the county. In addition, the supervisors said they would not object if another body began a search for another airport site.
Irvine officials said if commercial aircraft were allowed to use El Toro it would give Irvine the same noise problems that Newport Beach has suffered for years and would increase the possibility of an air crash at the facility.