Local government

BLM, Ontario ink deal for new air tanker base

ONTARIO – A new pact recently inked between the city and the federal Bureau of Land Management clears the way for a $7 million project at the Ontario Municipal Airport to build a new air tanker base.
The Ontario City Council unanimously approved the agreement with the federal agency at a special meeting Aug. 10.
“This is an exciting project. They (the BLM) are moving everything there, their helicopter operations, everything,” said Dan Cummings, Ontario city manager.
The fire center will cover 12.6 acres at the airport and includes 7,500-square-foot operations building with showers, restrooms, vehicle bays and storage areas.
The facility will also include a fire-retardant loading pit, drains to serve the retardant loading pit and a retardant mixing and containment area. An evaporation pond will also be built at the site. Single-engine air tankers and helicopters will be stationed at the site.
Cummings said construction is expected to start this fall but it will be nearly two years – in May of 2025 – before the base is operational.
Under the agreement, the BLM will lease the site from the city at a rate of 7 cents per square foot. The city will pay for the construction – including a road to the site – and the BLM will reimburse the city that cost. The project will be completed in phases, said Cummings. The federal money is already set aside for the air base, he said.
The city will use reserve funds – such as extra money set aside in the town’s sewer and water budget – to pay initial costs, said Cummings.
The BLM will pay the city an annual rent rate, beginning at $38,420, and increase by 3% each year for the duration of the lease, which is 30 years.
“In the long run, it is good for the city,” said John Kirby, Ontario city councilmember.
J-U-B Engineers Inc. of Boise, will be the construction contractor on the project.
For the BLM, the Ontario project will consolidate firefighting resources.
Now the agency is using two separate facilities for its aviation program, said Tracy Skerjanec, Vale BLM fire management officer.
“Combining the programs at a central location in Ontario will reduce safety concerns for the pilots and aircraft involved in fire operations and help us efficiently respond to fires,” said Skerjanec.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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