Cavalier County aims to buy Nekoma complexA group working to redevelop the mothballed antiballistic missile site at Nekoma, N.D., applied for a $600,000 federal grant Friday to acquire the property.
By: BY KEVIN BONHAM, FORUM COMMUNICATIONS CO. , The Jamestown Sun
A group working to redevelop the mothballed antiballistic missile site at Nekoma, N.D., applied for a $600,000 federal grant Friday to acquire the property.
The potential grant from the federal Economic Development Administration would match a $600,000 appropriation from the state Legislature, according to Carol Goodman, executive director of the Cavalier County Job Development Authority.
“It’s exciting to get to this point because it removes so much of the uncertainty,” Goodman said. “There’s a timeline and some hard facts to look at.”
The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, located about 100 miles northwest of Grand Forks and 15 miles southeast of Langdon, N.D., was closed almost as soon as it opened in the 1970s. But CCJDA hopes to convert it into a multi-purpose facility featuring:
* An unmanned aircraft system research, development and business park, specializing in non-military applications.
* An education and training center for military, government and civil organizations.
* A historical interpretive center, which would focus on Cold War history and North Dakota’s role in the era.
The U.S. General Services Administration late last month gave final approval to CCJDA to begin negotiations for acquisition of the site, according to Goodman.
A data center?
Goodman said the Nekoma property purchase could be completed by the end of the year.
“There’s pressure from the federal side to get unused real estate off the books, for the budgeting process,” she said. “However, there are a number of things that have to be accomplished to get this done.”
Besides the three major projects proposed for the Nekoma site, the CCJDA also is looking at other potential uses for the base.
Among them is a proposal to convert the missile site control building — the one commonly referred to as the “pyramid on the prairie” — for online or cloud data storage.
“There’s a huge demand for that,” Goodman said. “It’s certainly a secure structure. It’s a nuclear-hardened building. It needs some renovations, but this is quite an active industry, finding locations for offsite data storage around the world.”
UAS test sites
Meanwhile, North Dakota is moving ahead with a campaign to become one of six proposed UAS test sites around the nation.
The FAA this week formally requested public input on its test site plan.
Congress mandated the FAA establish UAS test sites through the National Defense Authorization Act and the 2012 FAA Reauthorization bill.
“Unmanned aircraft can help us meet a number of challenges, from spotting wildfires to assessing natural disasters,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a news release Friday. “But these test sites will help us ensure that our high safety standards are maintained as the use of these aircraft becomes more widespread.”
Following the 60-day comment period, the federal government will issue a request for proposals, according to Al Palmer, chairman of the Governor’s Airspace Integration Team and director of UND’s UAS Center of Excellence. Palmer expects the six sites to be designated by September. “I’m an optimist at heart, so I believe we’re going to get it,” he said.
Kevin Bonham is a reporter at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.