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Marines Strongly Oppose International Airport On Base

The Marine Corps, after reviewing a study of the feasibility of building an international airport on Camp Pendleton released a statement saying it does not support the idea.

Photo credit: Ricondo and Associates 2006

Map of possible new dual runway on a proposed international airport on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Dec. 4, 2015.

The Marine Corps, after reviewing a study of the feasibility of building an international airport on Camp Pendleton released a statement saying it does not support the idea.

California State University San Marcos MBA students unveiled an economic analysis Wednesday night to an auditorium full of students and interested parties, including San Diego businessmen Irwin Jacobs and Malin Burnham, who support exploring the idea.

The business graduates presented their findings that a Southern California International Airport with two runways could be built in the southwest corner of Camp Pendleton for less than $10 billion. Their research suggests alternatives to traditional methods of airport financing with public bonds. The students advocated for public and private partnerships, including attracting an international air carrier to help design the airport as a mega hub.

The study found that only 26 percent of international departures leave from the West Coast, while 41 percent leave from the East Coast and 33 percent leave from hubs in the Midwest. Bearing in mind that trade with the Pacific Rim is increasingly competing with European connections, the report argues there is a strong case to be made for a new international airline hub in Southern California.

However, the research did not include comparisons with San Bernardino International Airport, which has failed to attract an international airline, in spite of a major investment of $200 million to convert the former Norton Air Force Base into a commercial airport.

The CSUSM study estimated a new international airport would yield annual economic benefits of between $2 billion and $5 billion, mainly due to growing tourism from China. The analysis showed regional businesses benefitting, including neighboring casinos. Increased real estate values were also presented as a benefit, since wealthy visitors from Asia would be in a position to bid up the price of real estate.

The response from Marine Corps Installations West was similar to the reaction in 2006, when an initiative on the ballot suggested building a joint civilian/military airport at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

In a statement, Carl B Redding Jr., director of public affairs for Marine Corps Installations West at Camp Pendleton, wrote:

“Camp Pendleton is not supportive of any plan to house an international airport on the base. As the largest coastal base for the Marine Corps and the only location on the West Coast to conduct amphibious landing operations and training, Camp Pendleton is a unique and irreplaceable asset important to the defense of the nation and its interests around the world."

"The primary value of Camp Pendleton is in its ranges - integrated land, sea, and air space, with committed live-fire opportunities unmatched anywhere in the world. These training ranges cannot be replaced or duplicated," the statement read.

"Furthermore, Marines aboard Camp Pendleton conduct artillery, mortar, and air-to-ground munitions training, which is incompatible with housing a large international airport on the base. Plus, the impacts to the environment and surrounding communities will require expensive and extensive mitigation efforts destroying years of carefully planned and executed environmental stewardship of both Camp Pendleton and its neighbors. Simply put, building an international airport anywhere on Camp Pendleton renders the rest of the base effectively unusable for Marine Corps training evolutions like Exercise Steel Knight that is currently being conducted and places into jeopardy the mission of the Marine Corps on the base.”

A representative from California Assemblyman Rocky Chavez’ office spoke at the CSUSM presentation, and urged students to become more conversant with the role of Camp Pendleton in national defense.

The presentation ended on a hopeful note as professor Glen Brodowsky said he expects the three years of research will open future dialogue on the possibilities.


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