Thursday, May 12, 2005

By Friday, local supporters will learn if their efforts to keep Travis untouched succeeded

May 12, 2005

Travis awaits its fate
Long-time Fairfield air base valuable part of Solano County

By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

Will Travis Air Force Base suffer the same fate as Mare Island, or will it remain open? For now, only Defense Department officials know which military bases it will recommend to President Bush to shut down.

By Friday, local supporters will learn if their efforts to keep Travis untouched succeeded when the names of targeted bases are made public.

"I'm hopeful it won't be on that list, but we don't know," Fairfield Mayor Karin MacMillan said Wednesday. "We'll have to wait and see when the list comes out."

Travis pumps more than $1 billion a year into the regional economy, creating thousands of jobs, officials said. If the county loses its lone remaining base, Fairfield can expect an impact similar to that felt by Vallejo when its Mare Island Naval Shipyard closed in 1996, MacMillan said.

Only recently has Vallejo begun to see major strides in its reuse of the old shipyard, as new houses are built and buyers make plans to move in this summer.

But the civilianization of Mare Island is the last thing the Fairfield mayor said she wants to think about.

"Look at how many years it took," MacMillan said of Vallejo's recovery in reusing Mare Island.

More than a year ago, the county's cities and local groups joined forces to form the Travis Community Consortium to lobby lawmakers to keep Travis open.

Fairfield officials also have made strides to try to prevent a closure. The city and county bought land south of the base to create a buffer from housing, MacMillan said. To the north, land was set aside to let the base expand, she said.

With all the work that's been done, it's unlikely the base will close, said Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan, District 5-Vacaville.

"I think it's more likely they actually add units to Travis," said Reagan, a former lieutenant colonel who had been stationed at Travis.

Travis is the Air Force's major West Coast base, acting as a gateway to the Pacific Ocean and hub for military operations, he said.

Reagan was at the base in the 1990s when the Department of Defense recommended which installations to shut down. Travis was spared then, and the same should be true in this round, he said.

"I'm excited to see how well we did on this exam," Reagan said. "We've been working as a community on this for a decade, to keep Travis on that list."

The consortium has worked to try to make the military see Travis as indispensable. Even if it's left off the list, another base that is targeted could lobby to trade places, the Fairfield mayor said.

"It's not really over until it's over," MacMillan said.

- E-mail Chris G. Denina at or call 553-6835.

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