A New Kind of Bankruptcy

Talk about irony: the one subject unmentioned during the county's infamous Dec. 23 press conference releasing its tardy Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on El Toro was flying. Consultants and officials were eager to predict their mighty proposed airport would reduce traffic and clean the environment, but their remarks lacked any information on the critical question surrounding the former Marine Corps Air Station: Is El Toro an actual commercial airport?

The answer, buried in the depths of the DEIR and airport system master plan, is no.

Turns out—surprise of surprises—the county has to rip out and rebuild all four of El Toro's runways, pretty much giving the lie to the county's suggestion that the Marine Corps base needs only bad food to be called an international airport. Of course, it wasn't a surprise to us—the Weekly first reported on El Toro's useless runways on June 25, 1997.

During Phase 1 of construction, “the existing 10,000-foot Runway 16R/34L [facing north-south] will be reconstructed.” Phase 2 will see that runway extended a half-mile, as well as the construction of “a new Runway 16L/34R.” Runway 7R/25L (facing east-west) will also have to be “reconstructed.” Nothing will happen in Phase 3, but Phase 4 “calls for the construction of a new Runway 7L/25R.”

That's a hell of a lot of work for an airfield once called a “turnkey airport.” Can you say, “complete and total bullshit”?

The madness doesn't end there. County officials still insist on sending two-thirds of all departures east—uphill into rising terrain with tailwinds—even though their own master plan now admits with scientific precision that “some aircraft may not be able to depart on Runway 7 with a full load of passengers and cargo to all destinations.” Runway 7's shortcomings have been well-known since the summer of 1998, when the Weekly reported that the county's own study (carried out by the aviation firm Jeppesen Sanderson) laid out the facts in mind-numbing detail. Despite all the new construction proposed for El Toro, the new plan does nothing to address Runway 7's shortcomings.

Oh, and the whole thing will cost at least $3 billion—50 percent more than they said it would cost just three years ago. This truly is a bankrupt county.

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