FAIRFIELD — Travis Air Force Base has an assault landing zone that debuted in the spring and that could change what land uses Solano County allows in the rural county extending east of the base for miles.
One possibility is the county might set a height limit of 200 feet for structures in an area that is mostly undeveloped. While such a limit would allow something as big as a Six Flags Discovery Kingdom roller coaster, it could affect the spread of electricity-generating wind turbines north of Highway 12.
The largest of the wind turbines measures 400 feet from the ground to the top of an upturned blade. At least one wind turbine company has expressed interest in building on the north side of Highway 12.
As a first step to resolve these issues, the Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday heard from Travis officials.
Gary Gottschall, deputy commander of the 60th Operations Group at Travis, explained how the assault landing zone allows Air Force pilots to practice arrival and departure manuevers that they use in places such as Afghanistan. Some of the flying near the zone is done at a height of 500 feet and is done at night with pilots wearing night vision goggles.
“Being unpredictable means being a tough target to hit, in layman’s terms,” Gottschall said.
Planes training near the assault landing zone need a 300-foot clearance for objects that are less than 200 feet tall, Gottschall said. But they need a 500-foot clearance for objects that are more than 200 feet tall, he said.
He gave the example of a 450-foot-tall cellular tower getting built in the assault landing zone training area. That height rounds off to 500 feet and planes would need a 500-foot buffer, requiring them to fly at an altitude of 1,000 feet, he said.
Having to fly at that altitude wouldn’t replicate the tactical training environment that the base wants in the assault landing zone, he said.
Solano County is preparing to do an updated study for land use in the rural areas around Travis Air Force Base. Air Force officials have mentioned the idea of establishing a 200-foot height limit for the area north of Highway 12 and from the base extending eastward.
Supervisor Skip Thomson doesn’t want to wait to finish the land use update to act. He proposed and the board agreed that planning staff should come back in November with a possible interim law.
Mark Tholke of EDF Renewable Energy disagreed that an interim law is needed. His company, which has built dozens of wind turbines south of Highway 12 in the Montezuma Hills, has expressed interest in building on the north side. But, Tholke stressed, it has filed no applications to do so.
“We want to find a way to work cooperatively with Travis,” Tholke told supervisors. “We think Highway 12 is an arbitrary line.”
He called an interim law “a blunt instrument.”
Thomson said his proposal for an interim law wasn’t aimed at EDF in particular. EDF has been a good community partner and has worked with Travis on past issues, he said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.