An update on the effort to base the Navy’s F35C Joint Strike Fighter squadron at Naval Air Facility El Centro will be presented at a Board of Supervisors meeting Monday, following a recent trip to Washington where members of the Joint Strike Fighter Coalition met with government officials.
NAF El Centro is one of two bases being considered to house these fighter planes, which if based here are expected to bring much-wanted additional economic activity. Naval Air Station Lemoore is the other base under review.
Washington, D.C., took place two weeks ago, said Lisa Gallinat, co-chairwoman of the coalition. During that visit coalition members Supervisor Jack Terrazas, Imperial City Manager Marlene Best and Steve Birdsall met with members of the Armed Services Committee and “folks at the Pentagon,” Gallinat said.
The coalition is hoping to assure decision-makers “how we are embracing this,” Gallinat said, referring to basing the squadron at NAF El Centro. It is important, she said, that decision-makers are engaged and they know the willingness and support the community has about locating the squadron in Imperial County.
In these meetings, coalition members presented a recently compiled report that lists why NAF El Centro would be a better fit for the fighters.
Distance to training ranges that result in fuel savings, weather that maximizes good flying conditions and better air quality are what the report first lists as being better at NAF El Centro compared to NAS Lemoore.
The report also lists the endorsement of Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-El Cajon, and Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, as well as some 14 local cities and associations who back basing the squadron here.
Giving “facts and figures” will help making a better impression, according to Gallinat, as the Environmental Impact Statement regarding basing the squadron is being prepared.
The EIS is likely to be done after the presidential election in November and a decision is expected in the spring, Gallinat said.
Meanwhile, fundraising efforts for the coalition have “stalled just a little bit,” she said, adding the organization is still actively looking for funding.
Those interested in funding the Joint Strike Fighter Coalition effort can contact the El Centro Chamber of Commerce at 760-352-3681.
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you go
What Imperial County Board of Supervisors meeting
When 11:30 a.m. Monday
Where 940 Main St., Suite 211, El Centro