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A group of Iwakuni engineers now have something in common with a lot of Oscar nominees: Like many finalists for the film award, they say just being nominated is an honor.

The Army Corps of Engineers recently nominated those overseeing Iwakuni’s runway relocation effort for its Project Delivery Team of the Year Award. They didn’t win — but Iwakuni officials say they’re just happy to be nominated.

“We are all very proud of the example set by both the American and Japanese engineers working together here,” said Capt. Stewart Upton, base spokesman.

The nomination was for the massive land reclamation undertaking slated for completion in 2009, Upton said.

“The nomination is just the beginning of the work being done here in gaining recognition,” he said, “not just for the quality but for the coordination between our two governments.”

The $2.2 billion project,which began in 1997, is to entail moving some 14,836 cubic feet of land from nearby Atago Mountain via conveyor systems, and building an 8,052-foot runway about 1,000 yards offshore from the existing runway, air operation centers, port facilities and related utilities.

In 1994, after 20 years of negotiating, Japanese officials announced plans to build the runway, which is designed to decrease the danger of a plane crash in densely populated neighborhoods and a nearby petroleum plant, and to expose local residents to less aircraft noise.

“This is the largest construction project that the government of Japan has done and will be the only U.S. government-controlled deep-water port and heavy-lift airfield in Asia,” Mark Nedzbala, resident engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stated in a base news report Thursday.

The project is the largest land reclamation project in Department of Defense history, officials said.

“The Government of Japan has provided excellent facilities,” he added, “and has been a significant asset for the U.S. Forces with this runway relocation project.”

Japanese and U.S. officials have said the runway will be one of the best on the western Pacific Rim, and is being built with safeguards against natural disasters, such as earthquakes.

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