Preservationists are concerned that negotiations between the Navy and NASA to re-skin the historic Hangar One are slowing to a halt.
The issue is expected to take center stage at the next Restoration Advisory Board, or RAB, meeting on June 11.
"The negotiations between NASA and the Navy aren't happening right now," said Lenny Siegel, director of the Mountain View-based Center for Public Environmental Oversight.
NASA Ames deputy director Lew Braxton said it was "inaccurate" to say that talks to replace the massive historic hangar's toxic siding had "come to a halt," but admitted that coming to a "win-win" deal has been a "struggle." Navy spokesperson John Hill said that talks had "slowed," and placed some blame on NASA for not having a plan for the hangar, while making it clear that the Navy was moving forward with its plan to remove the toxic siding material, with or without a coordinating plan with NASA to replace the siding.
To the chagrin of preservationists, the Navy could end up leaving Hangar One as a bare skeleton.
In March, it appeared that the Navy and NASA had nearly reached an agreement: The Navy would put a new skin on the hangar, and in return NASA Ames would take on some additional responsibility for cleaning up the toxic substances left around Moffett Field by the Navy, freeing the Navy of obligations that could extend for decades. Cash-strapped NASA would rather pay the incremental costs for environmental cleanup than the high up-front cost of restoring the hangar.
Braxton said that "there has been correspondence back and forth between NASA and the Pentagon," but noted disagreements over "liabilities or financial responsibilities." For one, NASA and the Navy disagree about what it costs to re-skin the hangar. The Navy says it would take $15 million, but NASA says the price is actually much higher. Braxton said NASA wants to ensure the hangar is "water tight" once the re-skinning is finished so that NASA isn't left with any unexpected costs to finish the project.
In an e-mail, Hill explained the Navy's position.
"Navy discussions on integrating NASA's reuse efforts, which include re-siding the hangar ... have slowed as a result of NASA not being able to finalize a reuse for the hangar or a plan to re-side the hangar at this time," Hill wrote. "The Navy is continuing its ... action and will leave Hangar One in a suitable state for any future reuse NASA chooses to pursue."
"They have set aside funds already to do the cleanup but what they don't have is the necessary funding to do the re-skinning," Braxton said of the Navy, adding that appropriating the Navy's cleanup funds to hangar restoration may not be possible.
Braxton called it "unwise" to not coordinate the siding removal by the Navy and replacement by NASA because an uncoordinated effort would cost more money. Siegel says it may be the public's last big chance to push for a realistic plan to preserve the historic hangar.
Because of the economy, private businesses that might want to lease the hangar from NASA won't commit to the high up-front cost of re-skinning Hangar One.
Both the Navy and NASA plan to give updates on Hangar One at the RAB meeting, which is Thursday, June 11 at 7 p.m. in Building 943, located just outside the Moffett Field main gate.