LOS GATOS, Calif. - U.S. Rep. Mike Honda and U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, along with representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District, Sens. Barbara Boxer's and Dianne Feinstein's offices, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, and the Amah Mutsun Band of the Ohlone Costanova Indian Tribe, attended a ceremony here July 9 to celebrate the start of a project to remove contamination and quake-damaged buildings from Mount Umunhum.
Rep. Honda described the project as "the last lap of a long, long relay race."
"It was a stroke of genius to bring the different agencies together," he continued. "Through lots and lots of technical work, the blending of different funding streams and by working together, we can do this. The Corps of Engineers has built a good reputation through its efforts in flood control. Now, the Corps and the Open Space District can work together to make this happen."
Mount Umunhum was home to the former Alamaden Air Force Station, built in 1957 as an Air Force radar site. Satellite technology made it obsolete and in 1979 it was decommissioned. In 1986, the newly created Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District purchased the property to set it aside for public use.
Kristina Mullins, Deputy District Engineer for Programs and Project Management for the Sacramento District, briefly described the history of the site during the ceremony and pledged Corps expertise in accomplishing the project.
Members of the Mutsun Band offered a prayer for the success of the project and recounted the story about how Umun (Ohlone language for humming bird) acquired fire and gave it to humans. Mount Umunhum, which means "humming bird resting place," had once been part of their tribal lands.
The Sacramento District has been involved with the site since 1986, when, under the Formerly Used Defense Sites Program, it surveyed the area, removed underground petroleum storage tanks and cleaned up soil that had been contaminated by oil leaking out of the tanks.
Rep. Honda, with the support of Rep. Lofgren and Sens. Boxer and Feinstein, recently secured $3.2 million so that the Sacramento District, under the auspices of the Corps' Work for Others Program, could demolish and remove 88 deteriorating buildings, many of which had been severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
The buildings are the last remnants of the former air base. Any toxic materials associated with the buildings, mainly lead-based paint and asbestos, will be cleaned up and evacuated to authorized landfills. The 44-acre site will be part of the 18,000-acre Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, administered by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.
Valentine Lopez, chairperson of the Amah Mutsun Band said, "This is progress that would make our ancestors glad. It will help us respect the lands and the environment."
The Sacramento District plans to award a contract for the asbestos removal portion of the project in September, which is expected to be completed by summer 2011.