Funding approved for Naval Academy

$68.2 million to pay for repairs to campus ravaged by Isabel

Annapolis

November 04, 2003|By Ariel Sabar | Ariel Sabar,SUN STAFF

An effort to shore up the Naval Academy after Tropical Storm Isabel took a big leap forward yesterday when Congress gave final approval to a bill providing $68.2 million for the recovery.

The money - tucked inside the $87.5 billion aid package to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan - will pay for the construction of a new air-conditioning plant and the cleanup of buildings swamped by the September storm. The appropriation helps ensure a quick recovery for the waterfront campus, where midshipmen have been taking courses in makeshift classrooms and traveling to off-campus labs to finish research projects.

Congress awarded all but $12 million of the school's $80 million request, including long-sought-after money to air condition the 4,000-bed student dormitory, Bancroft Hall. President Bush is expected to sign the legislation.

"We're extremely pleased to hear the good news," the academy spokesman, Cmdr. Rod Gibbons, said after the evening vote.

The storm, which struck Annapolis on Sept. 18, buried parts of the 338-acre campus under 8 feet of water. Floodwaters cascaded into classroom buildings, crippled heating and cooling systems and destroyed sophisticated chemistry and engineering labs.

As their classrooms undergo repairs, some midshipmen have been attending classes on a Navy barge tied up on the Severn River. Senior chemistry majors have had to use labs at Fort Meade. And with the construction of a new chill-water plant at least six months away, the academy has set up portable fans to cool classrooms.

The Senate bill contained the full $80 million the academy had requested. But in ironing out differences with the House, lawmakers decided against reimbursing the school for about $12 million it had spent on emergency cleanup in the week and a half between the storm and the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. The academy paid for those repairs with money from other areas of its budget, which has put other projects on hold.

The largest piece of the appropriation, $40.9 million, will pay to build a new chill-water air-conditioning plant on higher ground. Storm water had completely submerged the existing below-ground plant, which cooled air for 14 structures, including most classroom buildings.

Efforts to win funding to enlarge the plant to air condition Bancroft Hall had stalled in Congress over the past few years.

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