Members of the Solano County Board of Supervisors this week unanimously affirmed their support for the future of Travis Air Force Base by extending a temporary moratorium on new, large-scale commercial wind- and solar-energy projects in rural areas near the base.
The ban also includes new wireless communication towers that are more than 200 feet tall.
Tuesday’s action gives the county 10 months to develop a policy for the types of developments that can occur in these rural areas that are critical to Travis Air Force Base operations.
We say, bravo.
The 10-month moratorium comes at the close of a 45-day ban put in place Nov. 5. It’s designed to protect the base from encroachment, but also to protect prime farmland from development.
Hundreds of huge wind turbines generate power in the Montezuma Hills between Suisun City and Rio Vista. Those turbines were a cause of concern for Air Force officials due to possible interference with radar that’s used at the base to track incoming and departing flights.
Those issues have been largely resolved, but now wind- and solar-energy companies are eyeing land on the Travis side of Highway 12 for future projects.
The height of the turbines – some 400 feet from the base to the tip of an upturned blade – would interfere with operations at the new attack landing zone, which allows Air Force pilots to train in low-level landing maneuvers in the massive C-17 aircraft.
Efforts to limit encroachment on the base are critical to everyone who lives or works near the base’s sphere of influence. Base officials estimate that operations at Travis provide a $1.66 billion annual boost to the surrounding economy. That’s based on an analysis of base operations from Oct. 1, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2012 – the latest figures available.
We suspect it’s much higher. But even at $1.66 billion a year, that’s far too many jobs — on and off base; active duty, civil service and contractors – and too much disposable income that comes to businesses across the region for the county – or anyone else – to put base operations at risk.
Simply put, any future project that could interfere with operations at Travis Air Force Base should be shunned not only by the county but by Fairfield, Suisun City and Vacaville. The 10-month ban on alternative energy projects and tall wireless communication towers in this critical zone will allow the county, at least, to codify this way of thinking in the Travis Air Force Base Land Use Compatibility Plan as it’s updated in the coming two years.