Beaufort County Leaders on BRAC - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/13/05

Beaufort County Leaders on BRAC

Celebration in county council. Celebration in county council.

All three Beaufort County bases were spared from the BRAC list, thanks in no small part to some very vocal local support.

Very early on in the process, people around the county started lobbying to prove how important these bases are, not just locally, but to the military as well. With a cheer, people from all over Beaufort County came together today to congratulated each other on a job well done.

Proponents of the bases say one of their biggest accomplishments was an encroachment program aimed at keeping development from getting too close to the Marine Corps Air Station.

"Our program has now been regarded as a nationwide model with in the Marine Corps and within the armed services," said Weston Newton, who sits on the Beaufort County Council.

But even that wouldn't have helped much if people didn't speak up about it. From the local perspective all the way up to Washington, DC, there was a very concerted effort to protect the three bases in Beaufort County.

"They say it's not a political process, but in a lot of ways it's a matter of who can show how much they do for the military in their area," said South Carolina Rep. Catherine Ceips (R-Beaufort). "It's a matter of who talks to whom and we've got some good people in Washington, DC, and we'll be talking to them again."

While today's announcement was definitely good news, nothing's set in stone quite yet. It's unlikely to happen, but a supermajority of the BRAC committee could put any Beaufort County base back on the list. So nobody's planning on releasing pressure yet.

"Lot of calendar between now and September 8, so we're not finished yet," said Col. John Payne, who sits on the county's Military Enhancement Committee.

To give you an idea of how important these bases are to Beaufort County, it's estimated that they bring close to half a billion dollars into the local economy. So people were certainly concerned about any possibility of losing that.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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