While Fort Irwin has resumed normal operations, efforts are continuing to repair damage caused by last summer’s powerful, localized storms that resulted in millions of dollars of damage over five weeks in July and August.
Three major power outages, on Jul. 22 and Aug. 18 and 29 were all caused by downed power lines in the high desert wash areas near Interstate 15, said Muhammad Bari, director of Fort Irwin’s Directorate of Public Works. The last outage on Aug. 28 came four days after a short but powerful afternoon thunderstorm flooded numerous Fort Irwin buildings and streets on Aug. 25.
In the days following the flood, all commands on Fort Irwin, its Soldiers, family members and civilians pitched in to restore and resume normal operations. While the Fort Irwin community is now focused more on year- end holiday festivities, work continues on more permanent repairs, as well as on fixes to the post’s vulnerability to power outages and storm damage.
“During this storm, over 160 buildings got minor to severe damage,” Bari noted.
“Repair contracts have been let for over 95 facilities that were flooded. We had leaking roofs, flooded basements and mechanical rooms, carpet damage, wall damage.”
Some of the more than $40 million worth of contracts, managed by the Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, will be used to repair the most seriously damaged facilities that include two barracks, the National Training Center Operations Leader Training Program facility, and 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment squadron headquarters. Other contractors began work in December to resurface the eroded Outer Loop Road and Westbrook Road leading out to Bicycle Lake.
“The repair work requires a lot of planning and coordination,” said DPW engineering division’s Gary Cooper.
Building tenants have to be temporarily moved to other office spaces, so they can continue working, before contractors can move in to do repairs, Cooper said.
Fort Irwin is also now working with higher Army headquarters to obtain additional tens of millions of dollars to do more work, including fortifying foundations of two bridges weakened by the flood and to update Fort Irwin’s storm water management system that dates back to the 1970’s.
“Fort Irwin is at the end of 30-mile long extension cord,” Bari said, in commenting about the post’s dependence on power lines and electricity supplied and maintained by Southern California Edison.
Bari said SCE is now conducting detailed survey and studies to revaluate electric utility infrastructure that SCE owns and operate. The survey report that will lead to upgrading the power distribution system to Fort Irwin will be submitted to SCE corporate and the NTC command by next summer.
“Short-term, SCE is stocking more resources,” Bari said. “That will improve the response time to Fort Irwin.”
Bari said that the Aug. 28 power outage required SCE to replace a downed 96-foot tall power pole. It took several hours to bring the replacement pole to the site as it was not a stock item and was not readily available. The power outage duration may have been reduced if the pole was available in the stock.
Fort Irwin is working with Installation Management Command headquarters to obtain approval for permanent backup generators to be sited near the child care center and other facilities that serve the community.
Long term, Fort Irwin has four renewable energy projects that are planned to be online in the next three years, said Bari.
- The Army is in the process of selecting a contractor to provide the post with power from a 15-megawatt solar panel facility to be constructed just outside the main gate to Fort Irwin.
- The $165 million hospital now being built to replace the current Weed Army Community Hospital includes a 2-megawatt solar energy system that will supply 90 percent of the hospital energy needs, including heated water.
- A 1-megawatt trash-to-energy facility will be built during 2013-14 on Fort Irwin. This project will help manage solid waste/trash and also provide 1-meggawatt electricity. The project also includes installing solar panels on carports at NTC and Operations Group headquarters that will provide 750 kilowatt energy.
- A separate 1-megawatt facility will be built on Fort Irwin in 2014 as a solar energy demonstration project funded by the Department of Defense Environmental Security Technology Certification Program.
Currently, Fort Irwin and the NTC consume about 28 megawatts of electricity daily.
“These projects will help Fort Irwin shave its peak load that will reduce our electricity bill,” Bari said.
Bari also explained that the projects are paving the way for the fort to become a net-zero energy installation in the future.