Conspiracy theorists, be warned.
The HAARP research facility that has been linked to such things as mind control, earthquakes and hurricanes will survive, but soon-to-be owner University of Alaska Fairbanks will expand efforts to dispel rumors about the research there.
The Air Force will transfer the facility near Gakona to the university early next month, said Othana Zuch, an Air Force spokesperson, on Tuesday.
The transfer of the facility and equipment, which researchers use to probe the atmosphere, will come at no cost to the university, said Marmian Grimes, UAF spokesperson.
Construction on the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program facility -- known for its system of 180 radio antennas -- began in 1993, with construction funding secured by the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. The facility is designed to study the Earth's ionosphere. Two years ago, the U.S. Air Force had completed its research there and was preparing to shut it down permanently, Grimes said.
The university reached out to the researchers around the world and found a lot of interest in keeping the operation alive, Grimes said.
"There are only three like it in the world, and HAARP is considered by many to be the very best one," she said.
The facility is not currently operating, she said.
After the university takes ownership of the facility and equipment, valued at more than $200 million, the land negotiations will begin, with the agreement allowing two years for that effort. The Air Force owns 5,500 acres in the area and the university is asking for 1,500 acres of that, Grimes said.
"We'll work with the military and any other stakeholders in the area to negotiate that transfer," she said.
The state university system has agreed to provide a $2 million loan to help jump-start operations at the facility, she said. Scientists conducting research will pay to use the facility, providing the money to repay the loan and support operations in the future. The university will also pursue anchor research projects that can help provide revenue, she said.
Students will be able to participate in the research, and the nearby community may benefit as scientists rent hotels and visit stores, she said.
"The work they can do there has application for things like communications and satellites," Grimes said.
The university is working with the Air Force to determine the date of the transfer next month. It will be associated with a public ceremony, part of the university's expanded outreach efforts, she said.
"There will be and always has been legitimate research happening at HAARP," she said. "We really hope to share that with the public so the conspiracy theories will dissipate."
Alaska Dispatch Publishing