A major renovation is coming to the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay waterfront in preparation for the arrival of the new Columbia-class submarines.
The project, estimated to cost more than $840 million, will include $500 million in upgrades to the dry dock and other infrastructure needed to accommodate the new ballistic missile submarines. Other planned work includes a $160 million transit protection program facility, a $138.6 million nuclear regional maintenance facility and an expansion of the Columbia training facility.
The work on the dock is scheduled to begin next year and take about three years to complete. A similar construction project will begin a year later in Bangor, Wash., where the Pacific fleet of Ohio-class submarines is home ported.
Sheila McNeill, former national Navy League president and director of Camden Partnership, said the construction project will be the largest at Kings Bay since the base was constructed in the 1980s.
“It’s going to be an incredibly busy place,” McNeill said.
The scheduling for the work means Kings Bay will be home port to the USS Columbia, the first of the new ballistic missile submarines, McNeill said.
One challenge will be to make the changes to the waterfront while still meeting the needs of the Ohio-class submarines when they arrive to Kings Bay for supplies, scheduled maintenance and to swap crews.
The Navy is building 12 Columbia-class submarines to replace the 14 aging Ohio-class boats home ported at Kings Bay and another base in Bangor, Wash.
The Navy is building fewer submarines for the replacement fleet because the new boats will have nuclear reactors that are designed to last the 50-year lifespan of the vessels.
The Ohio-class submarines need a new supply of fuel for their reactors about once every 20 years. The lengthy procedure keeps the boats out of service several years.