“This is important for JBLM moving forward. It’s an easy investment in the safety, security and prosperity of our community,” said State Senator Steve O’Ban upon learning his request that appropriations be made for an appraisal of the North Clear Zone (NCZ) was included in the Senate budget.
At issue is a 3,000 foot by 3,000 foot area of land immediately north of and centered on the runway at McChord Field. It runs the risk of contributing to point deductions for JBLM in a future Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) evaluation that the Department of Defense has already requested Congress conduct.
JBLM received point deductions during the 2005 BRAC process in part due to NCZ land use. According to the Department of Defense, the only acceptable use for this area is basic agriculture or vacant land. NCZ is recognized as the area possessing the highest potential for accidents, and its density was recognized as a negative factor in the 2005 BRAC evaluation.
The estimated cost of acquiring and relocating businesses currently in the NCZ is $50 million, but JBLM needs a more exact cost so they can conduct an accurate cost/benefit analysis. This requires a further appraisal. Pierce County has already committed to paying half that cost and now Senator O’Ban has secured the other $50,000 from the state budget.
“JBLM is essential to Pierce County, to the State of Washington and to the entire country,” said O’Ban. “Anything we can do to ensure JBLM is as competitive as possible only benefits us and the many military families that live here.”
“These funds will allow SSMCP (South Sound Military and Communities Partnership) to continue its collaborative partnership with JBLM to ensure land uses adjacent to the base are compatible with military operations,” said Lakewood City Manager John Caulfield. “This is particularly important given JBLM represents 30 percent of Pierce County’s economy and 2 percent of the state’s GDP.”
“The Department of Defense’s request for another BRAC round could be approved for as early as 2018,” said Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson. “This appropriation is solid evidence that the State of Washington and local governments will be proactive in addressing this critical compatibility issue affecting JBLM, the largest single point employer in the state.”