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ORANGE COUNTY, CA-In a surprise move, a county supervisor who has long been a supporter of converting the closed El Toro Marine Base into a commercial airport is apparently having second thoughts—and could wind up being the swing vote that eventually leads to scuttling the proposed conversion.

Supervisor Jim Silva made his new doubts about the plan public last night, when the five-member board was widely expected to approve the environmental impact report needed to push the conversion forward. Silva has been one of the three pro-airport supes, providing them with a narrow majority on the board.

But instead of voting with the other two airport supporters to approve the EIR last night, Silva instead suggested that the conversion be put up for yet another public vote. Previous votes have backed the conversion, but that support has been waning.

Silva’s surprising change-of-heart forced the board to postpone its vote on the EIR until Oct. 16, giving both sides of the airport issue time to regroup.A converted El Toro airstrip would serve more than 18 million passengers annually, create thousands of new jobs and millions in annual tax revenue. It would also alleviate congestion at John Wayne International Airport in Irvine—currently the county’s only commercial airport–and the giant LA International Airport to the north.

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