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Publication Date: Friday, July 11, 2003

Air National Guard may fly away Air National Guard may fly away (July 11, 2003)

By Candice Shih

Like a scene from "Groundhog Day," the city has reawakened to the possibility that the California Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing may move from Moffett Field to Atwater, Calif.

On Tuesday, after the city council learned that Rep. Anna Eshoo and the rest of the Bay Area's Congressional delegation had sent another letter -- the second in just over a year -- to Air Force Secretary James Roche pleading for it to stay, the council decided to send its own letter to state officials stating a similar case.

Last spring, Eshoo and the city became aware that the Air Guard was considering moving to Castle Airforce Base because its rent to landlord NASA and the cost of living in the Bay Area were too high. She advocated keeping the Air Guard at Moffett Field because of its security benefits, and reminded Roche of the $16 million of federal money recently used to build its new hangar.

Eshoo was given hope that the issues she raised would be taken seriously, but the Air Guard indicated that it's still contemplating the move, despite a $45 million price tag on a new hangar at Castle, which, like Moffett Field, has toxics around the base.

"Were they to leave, they would leave a gaping hole in the Bay Area," she said. "This is not about keeping operations in one's Congressional district. It's beyond that."

"This is a vital resource, put in bold, italicize, for the city of Mountain View," agreed Vice Mayor Matt Pear.

While Eshoo has maintained that keeping a strong security presence in the Bay Area is her primary concern, others in Mountain View want to keep the Air Guard at home for another reason: to prevent general aviation -- specifically overflow from San Jose's crowded airport -- from coming to Moffett Field.

As Mountain View's letter states, "The departure of the 129th Rescue Wing from Moffett could undermine Moffett's future status as a secure airport facility and lead to other potential uses ..."

Lenny Siegel, a local environmental advocate and cofounder of the Alliance for a New Moffett Field, said Tuesday that local officials have a "knee-jerk reaction" to oppose the move of a military installation. He suggests that the city and NASA come up with a long-term plan to redevelop the runway as housing -- which both NASA and the city could use -- if the Air Guard leaves.

E-mail Candice Shih at [email protected]


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