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Clearing the clear zone

Department of Defense commits $80 million to resolve clear zone encroachment issues

McChord Clear Zone from a 2017 report on the City of Lakewood’s website. Photo credit: City of Lakewood

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A major milestone was reached at the end of September in the multi-jurisdictional effort to relocate businesses from an encroachment area north of McChord Field known as the North Clear Zone. 

A multi-party cooperative agreement that commits up to $80 million in federal Department of Defense funds for the purchase of properties located within the clear zone was signed Sept. 24 between the U.S. Army Environmental Command and the city of Lakewood. 

This is the first time DoD monies have been obtained for a joint base to resolve encroachment issues like those faced with the clear zone. 

"This is a major milestone in our longstanding efforts to address public safety, urban encroachment and the facilitation of future missions for McChord Field," said Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson. "The city of Lakewood is pleased to have taken a leadership role in working with our federal partners to ensure the continued viability of Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). It has taken years of hard work to get to this point. I would like to thank the leadership team at JBLM and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force John Henderson for bringing this to fruition." 

With the cost-share agreement in place, the DoD has committed $50 million over the next 10 years, with the option to extend the contract in 10-year increments up to 2069, not to exceed $80 million. 

The agreement also includes a requirement that the city of Lakewood provide a 20 percent match. 

Working with South Sound Military & Communities Partnership (SSMCP), the city will use a combination of funding sources to meet this requirement, including other federal sources and state funding. 

In 2018, the State Legislature allocated $2 million for property acquisitions in the North Clear Zone and another $500,000 was earmarked in the 2019 capital budget. 

The city was able to use these initial state allocations to purchase smaller properties within the clear zone, but the large-scale incremental funding now available through the cooperative agreement will allow for the purchase of larger parcels. 

The first property purchase with the newly allocated funds could happen before the end of this year. The city is working closely with Tactical Tailor, a manufacturer of tactical gear for military and law enforcement personnel, to help the business relocate from its current facility in the clear zone to another site in Lakewood. 

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