A decision on where to move the California Air National Guard unit now based at Van Nuys Airport has been suspended indefinitely, a National Guard spokesman said Monday.
At issue is whether the unit, the 146th Tactical Airlift Wing, will move to the Navy base at Point Mugu on the Ventura County coast, or to Air Force Plant 42 in the Antelope Valley. After two years of debate and public hearings, a decision had been expected soon, perhaps this week, from the office of the secretary of the Air Force.
The wing’s officers have been told by the Pentagon that “they want to review it some more and there will be no decision immediately,” said Master Sgt. Riley Black, a spokesman for the wing.
No further reason was given for the delay.
The wing has planned for years to move out of Van Nuys. The airport is crowded with civilian light planes and the $1-a-year lease the Defense Department had on the Guard’s 62-acre base expired this year.
The wing’s officers, and the environmental impact report prepared on the move, consider Point Magu the best site for relocation.
But the City Council and some residents groups in neighboring Camarillo protested the proposed move on grounds of air traffic safety, noise, air pollution and other environmental factors. In contrast, the city councils and citizens groups of the Antelope Valley cities of Palmdale and Lancaster mounted a campaign to attract the unit, partly for economic reasons.
The 1,500-person wing, the largest National Guard tactical airlift wing in the United States, has a full-time base staff of 360 and an annual budget of $26.8 million.
Representatives of both areas under consideration lobbied the Pentagon, National Guard headquarters in Sacramento and Gov. George Deukmejian, all of whom have a voice in the decision.
Ironically, despite Camarillo’s rejection and the eager welcome from the Antelope Valley, it appeared the wing would move to Point Mugu. The Guard said the Ventura coast offered better prospects for recruiting and retraining members, a crucial consideration in the all-volunteer unit.
Monday’s announcement “is good news for us,” Lancaster Mayor Lynn Harrison said. “Maybe they’re going to reconsider us.”