BY MARIO CONDE
The Holtville Cargo Airport project has been on hold for several years, but the discussion to reactive the project will soon be before the Imperial County Board of Supervisors.
District 5 Supervisor Ray Castillo proposed at a recent County Board meeting to once again look at the possibility of bringing the cargo airport to Holtville, something that Castillo said will be beneficial to the Imperial Valley economy.
The Holtville cargo airport project has been considered since the early 2000s for the Imperial Valley but the project has not moved forward. The proposal to have a cargo airport at Brown Field in Otay Mesa in San Diego County was entertained but residents and developers were against the idea. The cargo airport idea found a new home in Holtville but the project has been stagnant.
“Let’s say that you have cargo coming from China, and instead of landing in Los Angeles, they could land in Holtville,” Castillo said. Castillo mentioned that the county contracted with a San Francisco based consultant, Leigh Fisher & Associates, in 2003 to do an airport study to determine if a cargo airport was economically feasible. Castillo said a new study is needed to see how the Holtville Cargo Airport can export goods from Imperial Valley.
“The maquiladoras have expanded in Mexicali and there are high-tech plants there that sometimes need materials, supplies, or equipment that can bring in through the air cargo to expedite the shipping process to Mexicali,” Castillo said and added that the county should go after foreign air cargo companies since that will bring huge benefits to the local agricultural industry.
“One World Beef in Brawley is shipping meat to China and if we could bring an air cargo here, maybe they could expand their export to other foreign companies,” Castillo said. Castillo said that a study needs to be done to show the need for a cargo airport and then go to the Department of Defense and work out a deal on sharing airspace since that portion of Holtville is mostly military use. Castillo said that the land where the Holtville Airport stands on is a surplus federal property since it was an old World War II military base.
“The meeting with the Federal Aviation Administration brought to our attention the Holtville Airport is currently suspended. We need to have it reactivated so we can be in good standing with the federal government,” he said.
Castillo said that the air cargo airport will bring a lot of economic benefits to the valley since it will bring high skill, good paying jobs.
“We are talking about generating over 1,000 jobs. As the airport expands, we are talking about two thousand jobs, and maybe more,” Castillo said. “An air cargo facility will open new opportunities that will be tremendous, so we need to focus on this.”