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Fortuna base cleanup moving forward; landscape improving dramatically

Posted 8/18/15 (Tue)

Fortuna base cleanup moving forward; landscape improving dramatically

By John D. Taylor
Not too long from now, drivers traveling ND 5 should note a big change on the hill where the former U. S. Air Force radar base stood, just west of Fortuna.
The base is coming down.
All but the largest tower, which houses modern communications equipment, and a smaller building to the southeast will be leveled and returned to grasslands.
The tower will remain to bear witness, via a commemorative plaque,  how the outpost served as line of defense against Communist threat from the Soviet Union during the Cold War, from the 1950s through 1984.
This effort has been on Divide County’s agenda since the county received the property in lieu of a tax debt, about 15 years ago.
Reclamation efforts began in 2008, and were stymied at each step of the way -- until recently.
Now, however, things are moving right along, according to Dale Cich, the Utility Systems manager of the project, which will return the radar station to prairie.
Cich met county officials earlier this month to give a status report.
“So far, so good,” Cich told the commissioners.
He estimates the base is being dismantled at a rate of one building per day, and that he should be finished with the demolition within a couple of weeks.
Cich said he has completed tearing down four of the base’s largest buildings and was about 30 percent complete as of Tuesday, Aug. 4.
The soldier’s dorms, officers’ lounge and the bowling alley are down, Cich said; the domed radar center building and other structures were in the process of being taken down. Cich was also working on the other buildings on the east end of the property and cleaning up some of the larger buildings at that time.
The sole hitch in the get-along, Cich told the commissioners, is water.
Cich said he needs another $30,000 to cover the costs of water being used to hose down asbestos wallboard tape and window caulking in the buildings, to make it safe for his subcontractor, Asbestos Control & Consulting Team (ACCT), to handle.
He said the state Department of Health is asking for more water to be sprayed during their handling of these items and that the asbestos described on the plan didn’t cover all the asbestos material in the buildings.
The extra $30,000 would cover the cost of water, and a supervisor, Steve Proulx, of ACCT, and the water tanker truck.
Cich believes he can come in under $30,000 in additional costs, but wanted to run this by the commissioners for their approval.
Initially, Cich’s demolition and landfilling of the buildings on the base was supposed to coincide with the removal of the asbestos by ACCT, to conserve water. 
However, this can’t happen now, due to delays in the process, Cich said.
County officials initially balked at the extra charge. However, at the suggestion of County Attorney Seymour Jordan, they agreed that if Everette Enno, of Tri-County Regional Development, will oversee the water use and manage Cich’s use of the resource they would sign a change order for the project.
The commissioners also wondered how the building materials Cich is recovering will be used.
Commissioner Tim Selle asked if Cich is crushing the cement pads and walls used in constructing the larger buildings on the base and hauling this away. Cich said he is not, these items are buried on the site.
Cich said he basically knocked over the buildings and buried the rubble below the foundation line, this to be eventually covered by a layer of topsoil.
The steel in the buildings is being hauled to Border Steel to be sold.
The county is using a $292,000 state grant to help clean up the former radar base, and has until 2017 to complete this mission.