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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Like a teenager before prom night, Yokosuka has done significant primping before the big dance — the arrival of the USS George Washington.

Since the initial announcement that a nuclear-powered carrier was headed this way, infrastructure changes have been a key part of getting ready for the aircraft carrier and the influx of new people associated with the arrival.

Harbor preparations

Dredging: To make room for the new carrier, 708,100 cubic meters was dredged from Truman Bay in the past year. The George Washington needs a minimum 50-foot draft to navigate comfortably in and out of port, compared with the 45 feet needed by conventional ships. The dredging, paid for by the Japanese government, prompted lawsuits from environmentalists and fishermen, but the courts rejected all claims.

Piedmont Pier, or Pier 12: The carrier’s Yokosuka home will be a pier that was a dozen years in the making and officially opened in 2006.

"This host-nation support project required 12 years, expenses of 12.8 billion yen (about $114 million) and faced every imaginable difficulty," said Yokohama Defense Facilities Administration Bureau director Nobushige Takamizawa at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2006.

Now the pier can accommodate both an aircraft carrier and a submarine, said Yokosuka’s commanding officer, Capt. Daniel Weed.

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard barges: A waterfront workplace was constructed for the 500 to 700 PSNS workers who will maintain the carrier’s nuclear propulsion system.

Co-generation power plant: The new power plant will go online in October, with George Washington slated to be its biggest customer. The plant, which runs natural gas engines and creates steam, will eventually produce up to 39 megawatts of continuous power, with the carrier requiring 20-30 megawatts while in port. The $108 million project was built under the Energy Savings Performance Contract program, an energy-conservation initiative allowing private contractors to get government financing to make federal buildings more efficient.

The Yokosuka plant is estimated to save 600 billion British thermal units (BTUs) in energy, plus cut carbon dioxide emissions by 67,000 tons.

"We won’t be emitting as many greenhouse gasses," Weed said. "And this makes it more environmentally friendly, which is important to Japan."

For sailors and familiesHomeport Ashore: On the residential front, the Homeport Ashore initiative spurred a large-scale barracks renovation to provide fleet sailors E-4 and below a place to call home while the ship is in port.

The incentive-based program has made space for 2,200 junior sailors, Weed said.

Wi-Fi hotspots: Added in 2006, free Internet access points can now be found at: Club Alliance Sports Bar, Chief Petty Officers Club’s Cove Bar, Officers Club’s Kurofune Sports Lounge, Spectrum Liberty Center, Fleet Recreation Center — third floor, Yokosuka library, Yokosuka Bowling Center, Green Beach pool deck, Negishi All Hands Club, Negishi library, Ikego pool deck, Ikego Club Takemiya, Kosano Park, Green Bay Marina and the Starbucks outdoor area.

Location signs: A number of signs were posted on the base this year to help new arrivals get going in the right direction.

Bus service: Another home-to-work bus was added at the Negishi Housing Area.

Ambulance: A 24-hour ambulance was added to Ikego Housing Area.

CFAY Sundays: The base is now open to the public on a small scale once a month.

Athletics: Purdy Fitness Center opened in 2007 and a synthetic turf field was installed last summer.

More to comeCommunity Support Center: The four-story building will bring a number of base support commands, such as the Fleet and Family Support Center, the library, the Red Cross, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the area orientation brief and intercultural relations class under one roof. The building is due to open in March 2009, Weed said.

Parking: The base is involved in a traffic pattern and parking study to accommodate the additional waterfront parking needed by the PSNS workers who will commute to maintain the carrier’s nuclear propulsion engine.

U.S. Japanese Cultural Exchange Center: Plans are in the works to create a center in the Alliance Club that will be open to the Japanese public. Base officials hope to open the center in 2009.

Stripes in 7

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