Local Business

Brown aide talks of Travis, water, high-speed rail with business group

By From page A3 | February 27, 2014

FAIRFIELD — An adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown came to Solano County on Wednesday to talk about protecting Travis Air Force Base from cutbacks and dealing with the drought.

Wade Crowfoot addressed the Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. He is a deputy cabinet secretary, senior adviser and military adviser for Brown.

Vallejo City Councilman Jess Malgapo told Crowfoot that Solano County would go into an economic meltdown if it lost Travis Air Force Base. He talked about how the closure of Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1996 hurt Vallejo.

Crowfoot said the state is working with its congressional delegation.

“The short of it is, we fully recognize the economic important of Travis and the rest of the bases in the state,” Crowfoot said.

But the military takes a different approach to decision-making. It looks at what advances national security, Crowfoot said. Efforts to support Travis need to emphasize why Travis is so important to the nation’s efforts to extend military force strength into the Pacific, he said.

Brown realizes the need to be organized when protecting the state’s military bases from closures and cutbacks, Crowfoot said. During the four Base Realignment and Closure Commission rounds in the 1980s and 1990s, the state didn’t have a good, coordinated approach and some military bases competed against each other, he said.

Ellen Tauscher, who previously represented Fairfield-Suisun City in Congress, is heading the Governor’s Military Council. Crowfoot said one goal of the group is to communicate with community groups such as the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee and let them know the state supports their efforts.

“I think Solano County’s strong support of Travis Air Force Base is a very important thing,” Crowfoot said.

Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert is on the Travis Community Consortium. She said she came to know Crowfoot through her work with the consortium.

“He’s the kind of go-to guy, if you ask for something and he has the ability to help you, he’ll get it done,” she said.

Crowfoot also talked about a three-year drought that he said is an immediate crisis. He noted Willits has only a two-month supply of drinking water.

Solano County water officials have said the county and its cities have enough water for the rest of the year. But Crowfoot said everyone should be preparing for the worst, no matter how long this drought lasts. He noted Australia had a 12-year drought.

“Sustained droughts are part of California’s history. This isn’t anything new,” Crowfoot said.

Some in the audience had messages that Crowfoot could relay back to the Brown administration.

Solano County Supervisor Skip Thomson talked about the Bay Delta Conservation Plan backed by the Brown administration. It would build twin tunnels to take water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and would create new habitat refuges in Solano County.

The plan would result in no additional water, Thomson said.

Crowfoot said that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan isn’t a silver bullet for the state’s water challenges.

Thomson asked that the state pay the $600,000 it owes the county in leu of property tax money for state-owned wildlife refuges that already exist in the county. It’s been 12 years since the state made a payment, he said.

Solano Community College Board Member Monica Brown questioned Crowfoot about the proposed $68 billion high-speed rail system from the Bay Area through the Central Valley to Los Angeles. She called it the “train to nowhere.” A first phase is to connect Fresno and Bakersfield.

Crowfoot defended the bullet train project championed by Brown, saying that the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Area Rapid Transit and the University of California system all had critics when they got launched. The train will connect California like never before, he said.

“This is a big idea,” Crowfoot said. “It’s a generational idea. It’s an easy idea to sling arrows at.”

The train will link the Central Valley with the coastal areas, Crowfoot said. Economic activity such as tech companies might find its way from the Bay Area to Fresno where real estate is cheaper if the trip between the two areas could be made in an hour and 40 minutes by train, he said. Some in the audience seemed skeptical of this outcome.

Crowfoot said he had once been skeptical of the train, but no longer.

“Is it a game changer? Absolutely,” he said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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