Beale backer predicts disaster if base closes
One day after a military base closure official predicted that base closures "will be tsunamis in the communities they hit," a local advocate for Beale Air Force Base said he agrees with the statement.
"That's been my concern all along," said Tim Johnson, executive director of the Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corp. "This time around I think it's going to wipe out economies."
Johnson's words followed those by Anthony Principi, a California man who chairs the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which had its first meeting Tuesday.
Johnson is hoping that Beale will not be on the list of proposed base closures, which the Pentagon may release next week. As many as 100 major bases could be shut down in this round.
Johnson worries because urban areas have already been hit in past closure rounds, he said.
"This time through ... there will probably be closures in rural areas," he said. Closures in urban areas fared better overall because they had other resources close by to aid in recovery, Johnson said, but "small to midsize areas do not have the resources."
The base employs nearly 4,500 airmen and 1,700 civilians on 23,000 acres about 14 miles east of Marysville. The base is home to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, which operates and maintains the U-2 and the Global Hawk. The 548th Intelligence Group manages data from the Global Hawk, U-2 and Predator, and Beale is also home to the 940th Air Refueling Wing and a number of other units.
Johnson said the closure would hurt the region for years because it would raise unemployment and send ripples through the local economy. Since Yuba-Sutter doesn't have much influence in Washington, or in the national elections, its voice is likely to be ignored by decision makers, he said.
Beale provides one-third of Yuba County's gross local product, according to Johnson. The base is the largest employer between Sacramento and Oregon and pumps $1.2 billion into an eight-county regional economy.
"It's not their fault because they depend on the military," Johnson said. "That's what those economies are dependent upon."
Johnson worries Yuba County will be left to deal with land vacated by the military and little money to pay for managing it.
"That's a huge swath of land and all of a sudden it (the base) is gone," he said..