ANCHORAGE - Downtown Adak, once the heart of a distant military base, is ready for discharge to a new civilian life, Navy officials say.
After years of cleaning up pollution and looking for stray explosives, the Navy is ready to transfer 31,590 acres of the Adak Island military reservation to the Aleut Corp., an Anchorage-based Native regional corporation.
The tract takes in hundreds of houses, the airport, marina, school, medical clinic and other features left behind after the Adak naval air station was operationally closed in March 1997. Work continues toward giving clearance to transfer another 15,560 acres.
None of the land can be transferred until Congress passes a land-swap bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, an Alaska Republican. That could come as soon as this summer. Under the bill, Aleut would get the Adak property in exchange for releasing its hold on equal acreage in the Shumagin Islands near Sand Point. That land is part of a national wildlife refuge.
Aleut and Navy officials hail the determination that downtown Adak is ready for private ownership.
"It's a significant milestone," said Sandra Moller, president of Aleut Enterprise Corp., an Aleut Corp. subsidiary working to redevelop Adak. "We're inching closer. The end game that we're shooting for is the actual patent and transfer of the land."
Adak is 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage and 400 miles west of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian chain.
As a military outpost, Adak once supported 6,000 people.