The Business Journal - February 14, 2013, By John Lindt
The U.S. Navy has given a preliminary nod to basing the West Coast squadron of the next generation of stealth fighters at Naval Air Station, Lemoore, rather than El Centro near San Diego.
The F-35C has been developed as the Navy’s next strike-fighter aircraft as a replacement to FA-18C Hornet.
"Beginning in 2016, seven Navy Pacific Fleet FA-18 squadrons (70 total aircraft) currently based at NAS Lemoore would progressively transition to the new F-35C aircraft, with the transition to be complete by 2028," said a Navy news release. "In the 2017 timeframe, the West Coast F-35C training squadron (also known as Fleet Replacement Squadron, or FRS), consisting of approximately 30 aircraft, will be established to meet the requirements for training Navy pilots."
The Navy has set March 19 for a public meeting in Lemoore to discuss the findings of the two-year impact study. In January 2011, the Navy narrowed down its list of potential home bases from 134 military air facilities in the continental U.S. and found that Lemoore and El Centro “best meet Navy F-35C requirements.”
If the Navy had picked El Centro, locals feared the impact would hit Kings County hard.
A 2008 economic assessment study found the Lemoore base contributed $161 million in labor income annually to the local economy and has a total economic impact of just under $1 billion every year. The total population associated with the local base that straddles Kings and Fresno Counties is around 44,000, the study showed.
That will grow with the basing of the new fighters here. The Navy established the Kings County base in 1961 — the newest West Coast base. NAS Lemoore now hosts the Navy’s entire West Coast fighter/attack capability.
The Navy has released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and a Draft General Air Conformity Determination to evaluate the potential environmental effects that may result from home basing the Navy F-35C in Lemoore or El Centro.
"Although both alternatives are considered viable, the Navy has identified NAS Lemoore as the preferred alternative in this DEIS. No basing decisions have yet been made. Following public comment on the DEIS and the publication of the Final EIS, the Secretary of the Navy or his designee will publish a Record of Decision outlining the basing decision," according to the news release.
Electronic copies of these documents can be accessed on the project website www.navyf35cwestcoasteis.com.
Two public meetings have also been scheduled. These meetings will be conducted as informal open house sessions, providing members of the public the opportunity to ask questions of Navy representatives as well as the opportunity to comment in writing on the Draft EIS. The first meeting will be conducted March 19, at Lemoore Civic Auditorium, 435 C Street, Lemoore, Calif. The second will be conducted Thursday, March 21, at Southwest High School, Multipurpose Room, 2001 Ocotillo Drive, El Centro. Both meetings will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
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The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.