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Overwatering grass / Civilian Furloughs

Ellsworth AFB, S.D. -- The Commander' s Action Line is a forum for the Ellsworth community to make suggestions or voice concerns about Ellsworth directly to Col. Kevin Kennedy, 28th Bomb Wing commander. 


Col. Kennedy,

About two years ago, Ellsworth hired a contractor to convert the base over to "Zero Scape" landscaping. We paid this contractor a lot of money to dig up living plants (and throw them in the dump) -- they were paid to replace these viable plants with drought resistant plants. We paid them to shut off the irrigation systems, paid them to kill the beautiful lawn at the Bomb Wing Headquarters building, where they replaced the grass with a prairie grass that goes dormant when the rains stop, (turns brown). Imagine my surprise when I saw a Staff Sergeant restarting the sprinkler system at the headquarters building, and the very next day I bump into the very same contractor that we hired 2 years prior, setting up a temporary sprinkler system at another building, and over watering by the way, about 40 or 50 gallons per minute was going down the storm drain. This is a blatant waste of money at the same time we are forcing our civilian work force to cut their hours, and salary, by 20%, after they have already been asked to go without a cost of living increase for at least 3 years. Looks like an "In your face" disrespect for their value to the mission, don't you think?

Col. Kevin Kennedy
Col. Kevin

Thank you for your question; what you are seeing is one step in a multi-phase process to use our resources more efficiently. The move to the Xeriscape project (low-water landscaping) you mentioned was implemented in June of 2010 and is forecasted to reduce water usage by 90% across the base at 17 sites. What you saw two years ago was the initial step that required removal of existing turfs, which was re-used as compost for the soil. Currently, we are at a stage in the project where plants require water to ensure the turf grows and can flourish in the final stages of the project. The drought-resistant grasses that were planted are intended for this region and have done well. While there is an initial investment in additional water and maintenance for this effort, the future water and maintenance savings once the new plants are established is substantial.

As for our base work force, we need every member of our more than 3,600 Airmen (civilian, officer, and enlisted) and numerous contract partners to ensure we are ready to provide expeditionary combat power across the globe. To me, the efforts of our staff sergeant and contractor look like an innovative solution to increase available resources for the mission.