IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (NNS) -- The southern runway at Naval Outlying Field (NOLF) Imperial Beach reopened July 5.
For the past few months, NOLF's primary runway was inactive while it was being repaved. As a result, the Navy temporarily moved helicopter operations to the field's secondary runway, which is located closer to nearby homes.
"What we had to do was shift our operations to the runway that is closer to the edge of the airfield, closer to the residential areas," said Lt. Jon Peters, Naval Base Coronado air traffic control officer.
NOLF Imperial Beach is the primary site for all naval helicopter training on the West Coast, where approximately 235,000 operations are conducted annually. The shift in helicopter operations caused a rise in concern with local residents due to the additional noise.
"Our whole flight pattern is designed to mitigate noise. You can't eliminate noise, obviously, but we reduce noise and protect the environment as much as we can," said Peters.
Flight operations are strictly conducted during weekdays and cease in the evenings out of the Navy's consideration for nearby residential areas.
"Even though we have the capacity and capability to train during the weekend, we choose not to," said Peters.
Construction was initially scheduled to begin in December 2010, and only run to the beginning of this year. However, due to the discovery of an unstable foundation under the pre-existing runway, the project lasted longer than anticipated.
During the initial stages of the construction, it was discovered that the original foundation was made up of an unstable clay deposit that had to be excavated out from under the runway and replaced with a more stable base.
In addition to replacing the foundation of the airstrip, another issue was the Continuing Resolution Authority (CRA), which halted funding for all government projects.
"The government basically shut down, so all projects went into hold, and that went on for about a month-and-a-half, two months," said Peters.
California-based company Pave Tech Inc., was granted the $5.6 million contract to reconstruct the runway.
The replacement of the old airstrip means different things to different people. For naval aviators, it means a safer training environment, said Peters. For residents who live nearby the airfield, the completion of the project means a return to normalcy; the helicopters are farther from the fence line, back where they used to operate.
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