Ground broken for Amedee Airfield breaks
Sierra held a groundbreaking ceremony at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29.
County officials, engineers, military men and construction company representatives attended the ceremony, which lasted only 20 minutes due to the cold weather.
“This has been a challenging project,” said Steve Podhurst, deputy garrison manager for Sierra. “This has had extraordinary requirements and coordination efforts between Lassen County, the Corps of Engineers, the Sierra Army Depot and the Department of the Army.”
The contract for the project was awarded to Granite Construction Company, based out of Watsonville, Calif. Granite was given the notice to proceed on Oct. 23 and construction is expected to be complete on or before Nov. 17, 2007, according to Public Relations Officer Lori McDonald.
The airfield expansion is only phase one of the entire project, which in future years will include the expansion of the apron surrounding the control center next to the strip, a control tower and operations building, and a parking lot.
Podhurst also said the new runway will eventually be able to accommodate almost all fully stocked and fueled military grade cargo planes, like C-5s and C-17s. He said it will also be able to handle virtually any commercial sized plane as well.
Sierra was originally awarded $13.6 million for the entire project. According to Civilian Executive Assistant Vince Sabatino, Sierra had drawn up the original design of the project in 2001. The project was originally scheduled to break ground and receive funding in 2008. Through coordination with the office of Senator Diane Feinstein and the Lassen County Board of Supervisors, the Depot was able to push the project’s funding up to this year.
Another reason for the speeding up of the project was the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005, which determined which military bases would either be resized or closed down entirely.
“Having this on the book and having Senator Feinstein pull it forward and actually have funding for it has meant a lot to us in regards to the BRAC decision making process,” Sabatino said.
Garrison Manager Bruce Hamilton explained the airfield’s expansion ensures that Sierra will stay busy for a long time to come, thereby creating job security for everyone employed there.
Hamilton also said the airfield’s expansion now allows them to envision the long-term goal of making Sierra into an expeditionary logistics center.
“This allows us to ship (and receive) anything from troops, to equipment and vehicles,” Hamilton said. “We can also store it here, because that has always been our forte, mainly because of the climate.”
Part of the next phase of development, particularly for the runway, will involve the construction of all the electrical subsystems that will accompany the landing strip. Specifically, this will involve the construction of an instrument landing system and runway lights, which will allow planes to land in virtually any type of weather.
This was part of the original plan for the expansion, according to District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson, but was downsized as a consequence of the rising cost of fuel and business, such as the transportation of gravel.
“The Army plans out five years in advance,” Hanson said. “We’re trying to sneak in the next part of the project (to be funded), which we’re calling 1A, which is to put in what we aren’t able to put in today. We had the Corps of Engineers out here trying to appraise how much it will cost, and we are finalizing that right now.”
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