$38M in modernization work slated for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery

The U.S. Navy has issued a $38 million contract for additional modernization work to be done at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, an important southern Maine employer in Kittery.

The contract, to Massachusetts-based Environmental Chemical Corp., will allow for energy and building renovation to the West End Waterfront Support Facility, Building 174, according to a joint release from Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

The work comes at a time when the congressional delegations from Maine and New Hampshire are concerned about a new round of base closings that’s been floated by the Pentagon. There’s a strong chance that the Kittery yard, which was slated for closure in the last round in 2005, would again be targeted for mothballing. (And I’m sure that the congressional delegation, local politicians, communities and workers would again rally and put up a helluva fight to keep it open, as they did seven years ago…)

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is seen on an Island between New Hampshire, right, and Maine, in Kittery, Maine, in a Friday, May 6, 2005 file photo. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

According to the release, Collins, Shaheen, and Ayotte, all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with Snowe, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, have “strongly urged the Navy to develop a plan to fund infrastructure maintenance and  improvements at PNSY and the nation’s three other public shipyards.”  The final version of the fiscal year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision authored by Maine’s and New Hampshire’s Senators that requires the Navy to submit a plan to Congress no later than Sept. 1, the release said.

“We have strongly advocated for the Navy to address critical infrastructure and modernization needs at the shipyard, and we’re pleased that this important work is now moving forward,” the senators said in a joint statement.  “The two projects announced this month will make a significant dent in the facility modernization backlog and help improve safety and efficiency at Portsmouth, whose workers set the standard for maintaining our nation’s nuclear submarine fleet.”

According to the Navy, work at Building 174 will include demolishing the interior of the facility, in a phased approach, that will leave the structural elements, exterior walls, and roof in place, while replacing all other elements.  Work is expected to be completed by December 2014.

Multi-million-dollar work on a military base doesn’t make it immune to being closed, of course. A famous (in Maine) example of that is the former Loring Air Force Base in Aroostook County.

The federal government had recently spent millions on infrastructure improvements at the northern Maine base when it was targeted for closure, and shuttered in the early 1990s.

I don’t remember how much the feds spent on Loring, but I remember the work – intimately. I worked one summer for a surveyor in Madawaska, and one of the jobs we did was providing surveying work for the construction crews who were re-doing the massive runways at Loring.