PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Hawaii and contractor Nan Inc. completed repairs of the historic water tank/signal tower located near the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY/IMF) on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) April 9.
“These renovations will greatly improve the situational awareness of all the Harbor Control Tower Operators which will in turn increase the safe and expeditious transit of all vessels throughout Pearl Harbor,” said QM1 Eric Williams, JBPHH port operations. “And with the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise Rim of the Pacific right around the corner, this project was paramount for all of us at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Port Operations Department.”
NAVFAC Hawaii awarded the job to Nan Inc. Sept. 19, 2011 for $5.6 million. Soon after Nan Inc. began sand blasting operations and paint removal, it was discovered that there was a much larger amount of structural steel repair required to make the tower safe and usable. Due to the severity of corrosion masked by the multiple layers of existing paint, additional funding, reengineering and a significant amount of additional metal replacement was needed. As a result, the contractor had to stop work from August 2012 to June 2013 while funding and additional design work was acquired for the project. With the added structural repairs, the total cost for renovations increased to $11.2 million.
Once structural repairs were finished, a new, three stage sustainable epoxy paint was applied. This two part epoxy paint comes with a 15-year warranty and will protect the historic tower from the harsh salt air environment along the harbor front.
“If these repairs weren’t completed, the signal tower would have had to be condemned,” said Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel Curley, NAVFAC Hawaii project construction manager. “This was a critical project for NAVFAC in order to keep the tower operational for JBPHH port operations and preserve a historic landmark.”
Significant elements of the project included replacing the stairway from the control office to the balcony level walkway, adding an additional stairway to meet fire code, new stairway lighting, and lightning protection, cathodic protection, and a fire alarm system in the control office. These upgrades have transformed the tower into a safe, functional space to accommodate port operations employees while still retaining its historical elements.
“We are looking forward to moving Port Operations back onto the tower,” said Williams. “With the new improvements, we will be able to fulfill critical mission requirements from a better and safer vantage point and it will continue to stand as a historical reminder of the heritage of Pearl Harbor for generations to come.”
The Pearl Harbor water tank/signal tower is the only one remaining of three original water towers built jointly by the Army and Navy in the 1920s. It played an important role in the events of Dec. 7, 1941 when at 7:55 am, the first telephone call warning was made to Rear Adm. Kimmel, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet – “Enemy air raid – not a drill.” By the time the message arrived, it was too late. Today, the tower sits within the Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark and Shipyard historic management zone. The renovations were carried out while maintaining the integrity of the historic tower. Most of its original fixtures have been maintained to for historic preservation purposes.
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