I learned something new while asking these questions today. Here it is:

While the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority dismissed its joint-use plan at Miramar – the one that would’ve impacted 10,765 homes with too-high noise levels – it hasn’t given up on the idea of adding one or two runways at Miramar.

Keith Wilschetz, the authority’s director of airport systems planning, says the authority would need at least one new runway to support a commercial airport at Miramar. The air base currently has two runways. One is 12,000 feet long; the other is 8,000 feet.

But, Wilschetz says, they’re not separated by 4,300 feet – an FAA requirement for commercial aircraft.

In all likelihood, Wilschetz says, the authority would build another 12,000-foot runway at the base, while using the existing 12,000-foot runway. “A lot of it depends on what is the military’s operation there,” he says.

Environmentalists would be a lock to sue over those expansion plans. Here’s why, from a story I wrote in June:

[Environmentalists] say building a terminal and two new runways at Miramar would destroy Southern California’s largest remaining swath of a rare wetlands habitat called a vernal pool, which allows … seven rare species to persist amidst San Diego’s urban development.

A vernal pool is a non-tidal wetland, a depression in the ground with a hard rock surface beneath it that prevents rainwater from seeping out. The pools are typically found only during the rainy season. A host of rare species live in and around them: San Diego fairy shrimp, San Diego mesa mint, San Diego button celery, California Orcutt grass, Riverside fairy shrimp and Spreading navarretia. Coastal California gnatcatchers also live in the scrub where pools exist.

Environmentalists say those species would be affected even by expanding the existing runways. David Hogan, director of the Urban Wildlands Program at the Center for Biological Diversity, says this about Miramar expansion: “Virtually any expansion of runway pavement beyond the existing military footprint on Miramar will likely result in significant impacts to rare wetlands and endangered species.”

ROB DAVIS

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