OMAK – Two related but separate projects will make up the expanded state Department of Natural Resources fire base at the Omak Municipal Airport.
Water system upgrades will be done during the coming year, thanks to a $1.3 million allocation to the agency by the state Legislature. Another $108,000 for base design work also is in the 2019-21 fiscal year budget.
After that, things get a little more uncertain.
DNR anticipates getting money for the base in the 2021-23 biennial budget, said Northwest Regional Manager Ken McNamee. An estimated $5.3 million is anticipated for construction of the base.
Wayne Skill, senior facility planner with DNR in Olympia, said once predesign work is done, the agency will go back to the Legislature for construction money.
DNR proposes an office structure on city-owned land across Robinson Canyon Road from the runway portion of the airport, plus facilities adjacent to the runway. The facility would house employees in both non-firefighting and firefighting positions. Water storage and a firefighting system for the airport also are planned.
On Aug. 5, Omak City Council members approved an agreement with DNR for water infrastructure at the airport.
DNR was allocated $1.3 million for the project in the 2019-21 state capital budget. Omak will retain ownership of the system; DNR will reimburse the city for design and construction costs, said City Administrator Todd McDaniel.
DNR’s Omak base currently houses helitack and single engine air tanker aircraft at the south end of the airport and leased space in two hangars at the north end, Skill said. About 85 DNR employees and contracted workers are stationed there.
The south end site has no potable water, so it is trucked in for drinking and rest rooms.
Plans for the base were announced in October 2016 by then-Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, who said the facility would allow aircraft to move quickly on fires in the area and throughout eastern Washington.
Skill said what’s actually built will be different from what Goldmark envisioned.
Goldmark’s vision for the base “didn’t get off the ground, politically,” Skill said. “It did not get too far past the conceptual phase.”
What’s now proposed is a scaled-back version of Goldmark’s original plan.
A facility still would be built across Robinson Canyon Road, but no structures are planned on the runway side of the road.
“The goal is to do it as economically as possible and still meet needs” for the base, Skill said.
A 10,000-square-foot, multi-use building is planned for the 85 workers.
“It’s all contingent on water,” he said. “There is a test well there now. (The city) is working on developing that source. The city needs the water, whether DNR is there or not.”
Skill said current Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz “wants to partner” with local agencies on such projects. DNR officials were in town recently to meet with city officials, and the two groups will be in continual contact to coordinate the water and building projects.
McDaniel said earlier this month that he’s still working with the state Department of Commerce on an appropriation the city received in 2018 for the project. If successful in getting the money released, the city would have around $309,000 to go with the $1.3 million DNR has earmarked for the project.
JUB Construction, Spokane, will design the water project, which should be completed by next July, said McDaniel.