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New Boston earns land ethic award
NEW BOSTON AIR FORCE STATION, N.H. - An explosive ordinance disposal crew with the Shaw Group use metal detectors and Global Positioning Satellite receivers to locate unexploded ordnance on a 1,200 acre site here. (Courtesy photo)
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New Hampshire Air Force installation earns land ethic award

Posted 1/14/2009   Updated 1/14/2009 Email story   Print story


by Scott Prater
Schriever Sentinel

1/14/2009 - NEW BOSTON AIR FORCE STATION, N.H.  -- The P51 Mustang pilot lined up his crosshairs just as he approached the target area. Once over the intended drop zone he pulled a lever, releasing his bomb onto the soft New Hampshire landscape.

He watched it hit precisely where he'd aimed, but the expected explosion never occurred.
Despite the lack of flash and boom, the pilot's training mission succeeded nonetheless and he was better prepared for combat in a World War that would last three more years.

Throughout two conflicts, from 1942 to 1958, countless training missions like this one occurred over a 2,826 acre site of what is now known as New Boston Air Force Station. Up to 20 percent of the bombs dropped on that New Hampshire bombing range never exploded. And some have rested there for more than 65 years.

Today, as New Boston's mission focuses on space operations, the station is charged with cleaning up the former bomb range. In 2008 the Defense Department included New Boston AFS on a list of military installations that needed to clear its land of all unexploded ordinance.

That push from the DoD prompted New Boston to ramp up a highly technologically advanced restoration project. In a partnership with The Shaw Group, Inc. (general contractor) and Todd Land Use Consultants, New Boston AFS did such a remarkable job at clearing unexploded ordinance that the base earned an award for its efforts.

The New Hampshire Land Surveyors Association honored New Boston AFS with the Land Ethic for Tomorrow Award on Dec. 4.

"The close coordination between The Shaw Group, Robert Todd's surveyors and our program managers was absolutely essential to our success," said 23rd Space Operations Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Kevin Reigstad. "It has allowed us to take advantage of emerging technology and tactics to clean up the UXO and metal debris, and more importantly, minimize impact to our operations mission, personnel and cultural and natural resources."

The NHLA awards program recognizes government, private agencies and developers who use the latest technology of surveying and mapping to carry out a conservation or land ethic that will be used in the future.

"The NHLSA considered three nominees for this award, but I think this particular project was more comprehensive because it used electronic total station surveying instruments and light detection and ranging instruments (LIDAR) as well as our surveying methods," said Robert Todd, owner of Todd Land Use Consultants.

The ongoing project involves a parcel of New Boston AFS land, which was used as a bombing and strafing range for P51 fighters and Avenger Aircraft during World War II. The range fell into disuse until the Korean conflict when it was used again until 1958.

In 1960, the installation commenced its current mission. This site became one of eight satellite tracking stations now established in the United States.

The cleanup project has entered its third phase as crews on the ground clear hundreds of tons of metallic debris from bombs, and dispose of unexploded ordinance which has been estimated to be about 20 percent of all live bombs dropped on the landscape since 1942.

Project planning has involved all of the latest technologies in the disciplines of surveying, mapping, geographic information systems and global positioning systems. LIDAR radar mapping was used to detect the location where the most bomb craters were likely to be found on the property and around the perimeter of the base. GIS was used to map the areas where the cleanup would be focused. About 1,200 acres were then delineated for intensive clean up.

Using GPS and electronic total-station survey instruments, crews from Todd Land Use Consultants created a grid of 200-foot by 200-foot squares. Crews then set a stake at each grid node to create the network which then controlled the methodical coverage of the grids by trained explosive ordinance teams.

"Any time you're working with unexploded ordinance it can be dangerous," said Jeff Oja, 23rd SOPS environmental restoration program manager. "Crews with The Shaw Group, Inc. found 82 unexploded bombs during a 71-day period and detonated them on site. Right now, they're approximately 40 percent complete."

The project is expected to take several years to complete," Mr. Oja said. "I am impressed that the Air Force has taken on the responsibility of removing this hazardous situation from a potentially high value natural resource."

The land in question provides core habitat for large home-range vertebrates and a potential exists to link this core habitat with other patches in the region.

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