Larsen says $127 million in budget for NAS Whidbey

A P-8A Poseidon takes off. Congressman Rick Larsen announced today the Navy
A P-8A Poseidon takes off. Congressman Rick Larsen announced today the Navy's plans to make spend $127 million on construction projects, much of which will be put toward the new sub-hunters.
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Congressman Rick Larsen delivered good news about Island County’s largest employer this week.

The Second District Democrat said in a news release Wednesday that the Navy is hoping to spend more than $127 million on construction projects at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station over the next few years.

That includes $85 million for a hangar and training facilities for the incoming P-8A Poseidon, the Navy’s planned replacement aircraft for the P-3 Orion.

“The Navy is making the kind of long-term commitment for NAS Whidbey that I’ve been fighting for and that the community has wanted,” Larsen said in an interview.

“Overall, it’s really great news.”

Larsen made a similar announcement last month when he issued a news release confirming the Navy’s intention to spend $7 million on the design of a new P-8A hangar.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, issued a news release Wednesday announcing her support of the Navy’s plans for the new P-8A hangar.

“Whidbey Island is one of our nation’s premier naval aviation installations and I applaud the administration’s decision to base P-8A squadrons in Washington State,” Murray said.

“Outfitting Whidbey Island to host Poseidon squadrons will be a boon for the local economy, and the Navy’s confidence in Whidbey Island reflects the installation’s record of excellence and strong support from the community.”

Base commander Capt. Mike Nortier was unavailable for an interview. A statement was to be provided to the News-Times by email but it did not arrive by press time.

Larsen said the Navy’s plans are outlined in President Barack Obama’s draft budget. The proposal includes $85 million for the P-8A hangar and training facilities, $32 million for facility improvements for the expanded EA-18G aircraft presence and $10 million to replace the fuel pier breakwater on the Seaplane Base.

Larsen had few details about the facility improvements for the Growler, but office aides said the breakwater would replace an existing WWII-era pier, which is currently acting as the breakwater for the fuel transfer pier.

The project will replace the aging structure with a stone breakwater, providing “increased security and stability of the fuel barge” while transferring aviation fuel from the seaplane base to Ault Field via a fuel pipeline.

The capital projects would create a substantial ripple in Island County’s economy as it would result in “hundreds” of new construction jobs, Larsen said.

The base has a history of hiring local, he said.

“When this comes, it will be a major shot in the arm for Whidbey Island.”

Island County Economic Development Council Executive Director Ron Nelson agrees.

Projects totaling $127 million mean a lot of paychecks, and much of that money will be spent at local businesses, he said.

“You bet it’s great news.”

If construction contracts are awarded locally, it will provide much needed relief to Whidbey Island’s construction industry, hit hard by the recession, Nelson said.

While those jobs will be temporary, there will be lasting benefits, especially the new hangar as it is what will make the arrival of the Poseidon aircraft possible, he said.

“Long term, we get the P-8As and the jobs that go along with them.”

As a budget request, Larsen said there is no guarantee the funding will be approved by Congress but he said he doesn’t expect any hiccups with this specific allocation. Any problems will likely come in the form of delayed approval of the overall budget.

Larsen is a member of the House Armed Services Committee which will consider the defense budget proposal in the months ahead.


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