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Airport Plan Could Create 20,000 Jobs : Aviation: Allowing civilian use of Point Mugu Navy base also would not harm sensitive habitat, consultant’s report concludes.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Between 10,000 and 20,000 jobs could be created in Ventura County by the year 2010 if a proposal to share the Point Mugu Navy base airfield with civilian airliners is developed, a consultant’s report released Wednesday indicates.

Based on the findings of the report by the Southern California Assn. of Governments, Supervisor John K. Flynn called for the county government to join a joint powers authority with other cities to govern the proposed airport.

Flynn said he will ask that the issue be placed on the agenda of the Board of Supervisors’ Jan. 31 meeting.

Along with the jobs estimate, the draft report--the second in a two-phase feasibility study----showed that the proposed military and civilian use of the Navy facility would not further damage the ecologically sensitive Mugu Lagoon or surrounding wetlands.

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“I think the report may be a little ambitious, but it clearly shows that there are no fatal flaws,” Flynn said. “The (Point Mugu Airfield Investigative) Committee has been meeting for 20 months. It’s time the (joint powers authority) was activated and that we get on with this proposal.”

But Camarillo residents and city officials, who have long opposed the plan to allow commercial flights from the airstrip, criticized the report.

“If this airport is developed, it will destroy the rural atmosphere in Ventura County that so many of our residents cherish,” said Camarillo Councilwoman Charlotte Craven.

If the county supervisors join the authority, the body automatically becomes activated and the investigative committee is retired. So far, the cities of Ventura, Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Thousand Oaks have agreed to join the governing body, while Camarillo officials are expected to make a decision at their Feb. 2 City Council meeting.

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Michael Armstrong, a SCAG aviation analyst and one of the report’s authors, said that so far, consultants studying the proposed airport have yet to find any major problems that do not have viable solutions.

Armstrong said the jobs estimate was derived by analysts based on the number of jobs generated by business at Los Angeles International and Ontario airports. He said the estimate of 10,000 to 20,000 jobs is based on a projection that 10,000 jobs are created for every 1 million passengers.

SCAG estimates have varied, but analysts predict that 500,000 to 2.5 million passengers will use the proposed airport by 2010.

The report also stated that a plan to install a new satellite-based navigation technology--known as a Global Positioning System, or GPS--on airliners serving Point Mugu could be presented this summer to Federal Aviation Administration officials for final approval.

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The 55-page document also examined the proposal’s environmental impact and declared that such a shared-use airport would not negatively affect the county’s surrounding wetlands or Mugu Lagoon.

But although many on the investigative committee were hailing the report’s findings, Bill Torrence, president of the Ventura County League of Homeowners, expressed doubts about the report’s accuracy.

“I don’t buy their timetable,” said Torrence, an east Camarillo resident. “The FAA isn’t exactly the speediest agency in the world. I think it’ll be more like several years than several months before they get approval.”

Torrence said the league remains adamantly against the proposal, and that even if planes are prohibited from flying over the city, the region’s highway system would be clogged with motorists attempting to get into and out of Point Mugu.

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“This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of,” Torrence said. “I don’t believe that 20,000 jobs will be created--they haven’t even received the commitment of even one air carrier.”

Craven, the Camarillo councilwoman, echoed Torrence’s remarks.

“Do I believe they think there are no fatal flaws? Of course I do,” Craven said. “I think they’ve ignored all of the serious downsides of this proposal since it was first pitched by the Navy. I know better, though.”

But Tim Merwin, SCAG’s chief aviation analyst, said the high-tech navigation system would allow airliners to take off and land over the ocean, avoiding flights over Camarillo. The City Council last year voted to oppose the plan based on concerns about noise, safety and air pollution.

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Last year, more than 40,000 people flew out of Oxnard Airport aboard commuter airlines operated by United Express and American Eagle, county officials said. The two airlines currently employ a total of about a dozen ground personnel at the small airport.

The two commuter airlines are expected to move their operations to Point Mugu if commercial use of the Navy base is approved. Officials for the two airlines would not comment Wednesday on the possible relocation.

The Point Mugu Airfield Investigative Committee will discuss the report at its meeting at 10 a.m. next Wednesday at Camarillo City Hall.


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