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16 Naval Planes, 1,100 New Jobs Will Transfer to Point Mugu Base

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Navy will station 16 sophisticated radar planes and transfer 1,100 jobs to Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station beginning in the next few months, officials announced Tuesday.

The formal assignment of the E-2C Hawkeyes to Point Mugu caps a topsy-turvy struggle to secure the four squadrons and the millions of dollars they are expected to pour into the local economy.

Officials said it also will help to ensure the future of the base at Point Mugu, which has survived a number of threatened closures in recent years.

“This is a very special day for me,” said Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), a leader in the move to secure the planes. “This is one of the highlights of the years I’ve served in Congress.”

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Ventura County Supervisor John K. Flynn also was jubilant.

“It’s a big victory for all of us,” he said. “This really anchors down the base, to use a Navy term. The Navy wouldn’t be sending them here if it were going to shut the base down.”

While most of the new jobs will be military, Flynn anticipates a boom for local defense contractors, as well as the restaurants, dry cleaners, video stores and other small businesses that will serve the new workers and their families--a total of about 2,500 people.

The order to transfer the wing was signed Tuesday by Navy Deputy Assistant Secretary Duncan Holaday.

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Adm. Archie Clemins, commander of the Navy’s Pacific fleet, had recommended the move more than a year ago.

The planes could arrive as soon as next month from San Diego’s Miramar Naval Air Station, which was made a Marine base last fall.

The transfer was a reversal of fortune for Point Mugu, as the Navy had decided in 1996 to base the wing at Lemoore Naval Air Station in the Central Valley.

That plan triggered an intensive lobbying effort by Gallegly, Flynn and other local civic and political leaders.

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“I suggested that the admiral poll Navy spouses and ask whether they’d rather to live here or Lemoore,” Gallegly joked.

Proximity to the missile range off Point Mugu was a more persuasive factor, as was cost.

Hangars already in place at Point Mugu could be remodeled to house the additional planes; building them elsewhere would have set taxpayers back $30 million, officials said.

The planes are topped with a rotating pancake-shaped device equipped with radar that can detect planes or missiles 300 miles away.

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They fly with aircraft carrier battle groups.

A Navy environmental study released last fall prompted concerns about whether the children of E-2 workers would cause crowding of local schools.

However, the Navy has since trimmed its estimates from 429 new students to 70, Gallegly said.

In any event, the new families would be living not just on or next to the base but throughout the county, he added.

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Noise and air pollution were also potential problems.

But the Navy study pointed out that the planes are quieter than fighter jets.

Camarillo, which has often fielded complaints from residents about the prospect of more flights at Point Mugu, endorsed the plan, Mayor Charlotte Craven said.

Even with the E-2s, the base will host fewer flights than it did before operations were scaled back about five years ago, she said.

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