Thursday, April 24, 2014

Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling
April 24, 2014          

FAIRFIELD — Rep. John Garamendi told local leaders Wednesday that Travis Air Force Base will survive, even if specifics about the base’s future missions remain uncertain.

He gave his audience the credit. Local civic leaders, concerned about shrinking federal budgets and new military priorities, have lobbied Congress and the Department of Defense on the importance of Travis Air Force Base to the nation.

The future of Travis has been assured by the work this community has done,” Garamendi said.

Garamendi spoke at the monthly Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast at the Hilton Garden Inn. He jumped from topic to topic over a span of about 20 minutes, then took questions.

Local leaders are concerned about the proposed retirement of the KC-10 planes based at Travis. It’s unclear when and if Travis will get the K-46, the next generation of Air Force air tanker.

"Change is occurring,” Garamendi said. “We’re not exactly sure how all of this will work out.”
Garamendi talked about California’s plans to help solve state’s water problems. The Brown administration supports building twin, 35-mile-long tunnels to take water exports under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The estimated cost of the project is $24 billion.

“Let me just start with three words – stop the tunnels,” he said. “Let me add a fourth word – stop the damn tunnels.”

Garamendi said the state under its twin-tunnels plan would create enough export capacity to handle all of the water in the Sacramento River. Only the political power would be needed to increase exports, he said. He raised the possibility of Endangered Species Act requirements that have limited water exports being waived.

“It’s an example of why you never want to build something big enough to destroy the Delta,” Garamendi said.

He talked about Maritime Administration’s decision to tow many of the surplus military ships in the Suisun Bay reserve fleet to Texas for dismantling. That long journey includes going through the Panama Canal.

Garamendi supported having the ships dismantled in the dry docks built for the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. He wondered aloud why it’s cheaper to take the ships to Texas. Local officials have mentioned such reasons as environmental laws in Texas that are more lax than they are in California.

Vallejo has a wonderful facility that needs to remain in place to build the ships of tomorrow and break up the ships of yesterday, Garamendi said.

Samina Masood told Garamendi that there’s a need to invest in human beings. She is director at the Heather House homeless shelter in Fairfield. Solano County’s homeless population has doubled in recent years, she said.

Garamendi responded by talking about a veterans job fair that took place in December in Fairfield. He was saddened to see about 1,000 people standing in line on a 40-degree day. They were desperate to get a job, he said.

He talked about reviving the economy and about the importance of education and job preparation. He talked about Genentech expanding its Vacaville plant and aircraft manufacturer Icon possibly coming to Vacaville. He talked about the work of the Solano Economic Development Corp.

“If we have the jobs in the community, then many of the problems you’re trying to address can be reduced,” Garamendi told Masood.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or Follow him on Twitter at