KITTERY, Maine -- Two projects deemed critical to the advancement of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard's infrastructure modernization broke ground Friday, as elected officials and Navy personnel emphasized an urgency to ready the U.S. nuclear submarine fleet.
The projects -- nearing a total of $80 million -- were among those for which the federal delegation rang the alarm earlier this year, when President Donald Trump announced he would be able to divert military construction funds to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border under his declared national emergency. But as of Friday, all four PNSY projects in question included the fiscal year 2019 military construction budget have seen contracts awarded, with processes underway.
"This means that all four of the funded military construction contracts for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are now under contact and ready to go," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, during Friday's groundbreaking ceremony for the $61.7 million Paint, Blast and Rubber Facility and $17.3 million Defense Logistics Agency Consolidated Warehouse.
Kenneth Watson, deputy commander of DLA Land and Maritime, said, "There is no more pivotal time in our nation's history than right now, as we rebuild readiness of our forces out there against this new challenge."
The new challenge was addressed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen -- growing Chinese and Russian submarine fleets employing advanced technology.
"These two projects are part of a larger Navy and shipyard effort to increase workload capacity and the shipyard's ability to overhaul and maintain more submarines," said Shaheen, D-N.H., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It is imperative we invest in its infrastructure if we're going to continue to support the mission of our military."
The Navy's 2018 Shipyard Optimization Plan, created to address deficiencies and an aging infrastructure, calls for $21 billion worth of investment in public shipyards over the next 20 years.
In 2017, the Government Accountability Office estimated it would take at least 19 years to clear the backlogs at naval shipyards -- having grown by 41% over five years -- connecting directly to the need for expanded workload capacity and expedited processes.
The Paint, Blast and Rubber Facility project will consolidate and optimize paint, blast and rubber fabrication in a newly constructed 65,386-square-foot facility. The new facility will be low-rise construction, consisting of high and low-bay industrial shop areas, as well as offices, break rooms, locker rooms, training and support spaces. The project is necessary to support the increased Virginia class submarine workload starting in 2023, according to PNSY.
The project was designed by Colby Company Engineering of Portland, and was awarded to Methuen Construction of Plaistow, New Hampshire, with a contract completion date in August 2022.
The DLA Consolidated Warehouse project will construct a new 29,200-square-foot addition to the existing warehouse Building 170A. The project completes the consolidation and modernization of a submarine component processing facility that will enhance the joint ability of the DLA and Navy to receive, inspect, and distribute submarine components for worldwide fleet support.
The project was designed by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic and was awarded to Cianbro Construction of Pittsfield, with a contract completion date in January 2021.
On Friday, Collins and Shaheen announced the two remaining FY19 projects -- construction of a super flood basin and extending portal crane rails for Dry Dock #1 -- have also seen contracts awarded.
An $157 million contract awarded to Cianbro Corp., the project will enable the dry dock to service both Virginia and Los Angeles class submarines, as well as allow the shipyard to expedite its refueling work.
"These new facilities are vital to ensure this shipyard continues to be the world's finest in years to come," said Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. "I sit on the Homeland Security Committee, so part of my portfolio is thinking how we can keep our threats off-shore, somewhere else. You (the shipyard workforce) are all so critical to that mission."
Shipyard Commander Capt. Daniel Ettlich said without the federal delegation's support in Washington D.C., the yard would not have been breaking ground on the projects Friday.
A multi-mission dry dock, Shaheen said, is expected to be included in next year's Navy budget, while she, along with her colleagues Hassan and Collins, vowed Friday to continue advocacy for the shipyard and its infrastructure needs.
This article is written by Hadley Barndollar from Portsmouth Herald, N.H. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.