PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — U.S. and South Korean officials are in a key stage of negotiations that would see a portion of land at the Camp Walker heliport returned to South Korea, the Army said Wednesday.
Negotiators for the U.S. military, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense and Daegu city are meeting this week to work out details for the eventual handover of about 17 acres at the Walker Army Heliport, also known as H-805, in Daegu, said Philip A. Molter, spokesman for the U.S. Army Garrison-Daegu. The heliport occupies 27 acres.
Daegu city authorities have been eager for years to regain control of a portion of the heliport so they can lay a road through the area, a measure called for in the city’s master plan, said James C. Hamilton, who is representing U.S. Forces Korea in the negotiations.
“So we are aggressively negotiating the details,” said Hamilton, who is also the garrison’s director of public works.
The United States agreed to return part of the heliport as part of its 2002 Land Partnership Plan with South Korea, Hamilton said, The plan calls for the United States to gradually close dozens of its installations and return them to South Korea.
Eventually, the U.S. military will consolidate its forces into two enduring hubs, one anchored at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, the other in the Daegu region, said David Oten, spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea.
The Army will first hand back about 5.5 acres of the heliport, probably by early next year, Hamilton said.
The remainder won’t be returned until new facilities are built both at the heliport and at the existing helipad at Camp Carroll in Waegwan, about 40 minutes north of Daegu, to offset the loss of the old facilities, Hamilton said.
South Korea will pay the construction costs, currently estimated at $24 million, Hamilton said.
Officials are hoping to have the new facilities built by late 2011, he said.
Among facilities slated to be built at Camp Carroll are a new helicopter landing pad, flight operations building and helicopter parking areas.
At Camp Walker, construction will include a new helipad, motor pool and access gate.
Local residents have complained over the years about the noise created at Camp Walker. But workers will be putting up sound barriers at the Camp Walker helipad similar to those seen on expressways to help aleviate the problem, Hamilton said.
Heliport H-805 will be downgraded to a helipad when the 17 acres is returned. The Carroll helipad will become a heliport.
A heliport is set up for the basing, servicing and upkeep of helicopters, said Molter. A helipad is an area set up merely for helicopter take-offs and landings, and can be unmanned.
As part of the deal, South Korea will give the United States a 1.8-acre parcel next to Camp Walker, Hamilton said.