The start of construction of a U.S. Forest Service rappel base at the La Grande/Union County Airport may begin soon.

Union County Commissioner Steve McClure said bid documents for the rappel base construction project will be available June 14 and the deadline for submitting them is July 12. McClure said he hopes a bid will be awarded by the county in July and that construction can begin by August.

The rappel base, discussed at Wednesday’s meeting of the Union County Board of Commissioners, will be part of a forest fire fighting center, which already has an air tanker base and a cache comprised of large amounts of forest fire fighting equipment.

“We will have three major components of forest fire fighting capability (with the addition of the rappel base),” McClure said.

The commissioner said the rappel base will add to the local economy.

“(The rappel base) will bring in more firefighting jobs,” McClure said.

The target date to complete the rappel base, which will have a one-story 10,000-square foot building, is July 1, 2019. McClure said the building may be finished by next winter and then possibly be available for use, though. Asphalt work at the building site would be conducted in the spring, the commissioner said.

Features of the rappel base will include four helipads, which are landing sites for helicopters.

Construction of the rappel base will be funded with a $3 million loan Union County has received from the state and a $1 million Connect VI grant it has received from the state, said Union County Public Works Director Doug Wright.

The Forest Service will lease the rappel base from Union County which will use its lease payments to pay off the $3 million loan over a 20-year period, McClure said.

See complete story in Friday's Observer