Since it was created in 2009, the South Dakota Ellsworth Development Authority has reduced encroachment surrounding Ellsworth Air Force Base, worked to increase the size of a training range used by the installation and initiated several projects to improve the quality of life for Ellsworth personnel and their families.
By focusing on the military value of Ellsworth and improving the quality of life for military families, the state agency is trying to ensure the base is not closed in a future BRAC round. Many of the agency’s efforts have addressed shortcomings that resulted in DOD recommending Ellsworth for closure in 2005.
“We’re on the offensive,” Glen Kane, the authority’s managing director, told the Rapid City Journal. “The checklist basically gave us a playbook to work from,” Kane said in reference to scoring documents from the last round of base closures.
Working with the Air Force to more than triple the area of the 28,000-acre Powder River Training Complex — which is located over portions of the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming — was huge, said Executive Director Scott Landguth.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who also has been a strong advocate for Ellsworth, praised the agency’s efforts.
“It has taken a forward-thinking approach to serving the base and surrounding community by supporting the expanded Powder River Training Complex, funding a close air support training site and promoting compatible development around the base,” Thune said.
To promote compatible development around the base, the agency worked with the Air Force and neighboring communities on a joint land use study. The authority also has been purchasing land from willing sellers in the installation’s accident potential zone to reduce encroachment.
In 2014, the agency built a wastewater treatment plant to serve the base and the city of Box Elder, allowing the Air Force to forgo the need to overhaul its existing system.
To provide a convenient location for military families to live, the authority acquired a 230-acre parcel of land that will be developed for single-family and multi-family units, as well as commercial space. About 24 homes have been built to date, according to the story.
Col. Bradley Cochran, vice commander of the 28th Bomb Wing, said the agency has been “incredibly helpful in the continued success of the 28th Bomb Wing.”
“They have been valuable partners as we overhauled our wastewater treatment processes, established an enhanced use lease agreement, which enables us to more fully utilize base resources, and have aided in the expansion of our local airspace, among other ventures. We look forward to working with them in the future on similar projects,” Cochran said.