Boxer fights for Beale |

Boxer fights for Beale

MARYSVILLE – U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, visiting Beale Air Force Base for the first time, reiterated her support Wednesday for keeping the home of the U-2 reconnaissance plane off a proposed list of base closures.

Boxer’s visit to Beale, home of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, was the first of two stops in Northern California. While in Yuba County, she visited the base and held a meeting of civic and community leaders hoping to bend her ear over concerns that included improving the roads around the Air Force base and possibly expanding operations at Beale, should other military installations close.

“It’s rare where you have a community that is so in love with its base,” Boxer told representatives of the Beale Regional Alliance Committee and the Beale Military Liaison Committee. The two groups are responsible for preserving the operations of the base and serve as representatives for military interests on the base.

Boxer also attended a meeting of emergency personnel in Chico following her Beale visit.

Beale has not been considered for closure, Boxer said, though Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has released base closure criteria. Because of the base’s important role in the war effort against Iraq, Beale probably solidified its standing as the hub for the Air Force’s reconnaissance operations.

In addition to U-2 flights, the base is preparing for the $130 million launch of the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft, which the military approved for Beale Air Force Base in 2001.

The Global Hawk is expected to swell Beale’s workforce past 5,000. The aircraft will have the ability to travel at altitudes greater than 30,000 feet. More than 120 subcontractors have been signed on to produce the Global Hawk, said Tim Johnson, executive director of the Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corp., the parent of regional alliance committee.

The base generates $500 million annually in the use of goods and services from Yuba, Nevada, Butte, Colusa, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter and Yolo counties, Johnson said.

Ron Bartoli, a Lake Wildwood resident and board member of the Beale Military Liaison Committee, said he thinks Beale will be spared by the latest round of base closures, scheduled for 2005.

“I think every base is a target,” he said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape because Beale played such an important role in the war.”

Dick Panzica, recently appointed by District 4 supervisor Robin Sutherland to serve on the Beale Regional Alliance Committee, agreed.

“Beale is a very important neighbor to Nevada County,” he said.

Boxer pledged to work with the groups to secure funding to fix the winding roads leading to Beale Air Force Base, many of which are lined with inches-deep potholes.

Boxer, who is up for re-election in March against four Republican challengers, sits on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and pledged to work to procure $6.6 million to repair roads leading to the base.

“I’m putting a list of priorities together, and you will be at the top of the list,” the senator said. She also pledged to work with California’s Congressional delegation to draft a letter asking Rumsfeld to keep California’s military bases open.

She said she couldn’t stop the consideration of base closures but would work to spare California from any base shutdowns.

“Having failed (to stop the first move), my second goal is to fight for California, to spare the state the blows of these base closures.

“I hope (Beale) can become a mega-base. The point is, now the time has come.”

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