By Alicia Robinson
With the legal agreement that caps flights at John Wayne Airport set to expire in eight years, Newport Beach officials are moving to consolidate support from residents to prevent any further expansion of the airport.
The City Council later this month will consider officially declaring support for two citizens' groups — Airfair and the Airport Working Group — and opening a dialogue with the groups.
Flights and passenger levels are limited by a settlement agreement among the city, Orange County, the Federal Aviation Administration, and two community groups, the Airport Working Group and Stop Polluting Our Newport.
The agreement places a cap of 10.3 million passengers a year on the airport through 2011, when the cap rises to 10.8 million annual passengers. The agree- ment is set to expire at the end of 2015.
"That's only eight years away and it isn't too soon to be looking at what it would take to get an extension of that agreement," Newport Beach City Manager Homer Bludau said.
The Airport Working Group has been around since 1982, but Airfair is newer. Since it was formed in 2002, the group has sought backing from councils in cities affected by airport operations.
The move by Newport Beach's council may be largely symbolic — Airport Working Group President Tom Naughton said he's been working with the city since the group was formed. But to Bludau, presenting a united front against expansion of John Wayne Airport can only grow more important as Los Angeles officials look to regional airports to take pressure off of Los Angeles International Airport.
At a regional level, the key will be encouraging passengers to use airports in Palmdale and Ontario — and figuring out ways to get them there, said Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach. He represents the county on the Southern California Regional Airport Authority, a position that's brought him more than 250 letters from mostly Newport Beach residents asking for permanent caps on flights at John Wayne Airport.
The airport's physical expansion is limited by an agreement between Newport Beach and the county that gives the city veto power if the county tries to buy land for a second commercial runway. However, airport officials are poised to begin a major facility expansion that is allowed by the settlement agreement.
The Newport Beach City Council will consider support for Airfair and the Airport Working Group on Feb. 13.
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