Camp Pendleton Marines to haul 500 tons of gear to Catalina ahead of runway reconstruction
By ERIKA I. RITCHIE | The (Anaheim, Calif.) Orange County Register | Published: December 11, 2018
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (Tribune News Service)— Marines and Navy personnel preparing to restore a damaged runway on Catalina Island will transport 500 tons of equipment and tools there next week in preparation for troop arrivals in January.
The trucks, construction equipment, tents and other supplies needed to support the effort will be shipped from the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro to the Two Harbors area of Catalina Island.
From there, Marines will travel with the equipment to the Airport in the Sky during the week of December 17.
The 77-year-old asphalt runway is cracked and decayed. Still, there are about 14,000 take-offs and landings on Catalina Island each year.
The $5 million restoration project is a collaboration between the Catalina Island Conservancy and the U.S. military and will be used as a training exercise for the troops. The Marines will do a complete repair of the 3,000-foot-long, 60-foot-wide runway.
Officials closed the main runway on Monday, Dec. 10. Only a limited number of flights, with prior permission, are allowed to land on an alternate runway.
In January, about 100 Marines, part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton, will come ashore and establish a base on the top of a mountain in the island’s interior, and from there will work to repair the runway.
Marine Corps officials said the project, expected to take three months to complete, will provide Marines and sailors with valuable training in a remote location with difficult logistics. The runway is 11 miles from Avalon.
They say the project will simulate working in a foreign country during a deployment.
The 1MEF has assigned the 3rd Marine Air Wing from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar for the job. The Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 will serve as the lead element for the repair. Several Navy units will assist with quality control and medical support.
“We welcome the arrival of all this equipment they’re providing for the runway repair,” said Tony Budrovich, Catalina Island Conservancy president and CEO. “The airport is an historic and critical asset for Catalina, and the main runway’s condition had put the airport at risk of closure to the public if we hadn’t found this innovative solution to reduce the construction cost.”
The partnership with the Marines and Navy, he said, will extend the life of the runway for 75 to 100 years.
“Since 1942, U.S. Navy Seabees have served side-by-side with all our nation’s Armed Forces to build and defend critical infrastructure to support every major theater operation in our history,” said Lt. Saul Perez-Ravelo, with the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps. “From building 6,000-foot ice runways in Antarctica to airstrips in the Pacific, the Seabees have demonstrated their ‘can-do’ spirit, and we will do that once again alongside the Marines on the Catalina Island runway repair project.”
Troops will rotate onto and off of the island during the course of the project, with a small group of Marines remaining on Catalina over the holidays. Catalina Island Conservancy Board Chairwoman Kellie Johnson plans to host the Marines for Christmas dinner at her Avalon home.