Sēlija military base in project stage

The design of the Sēlija (Selonia) military training ground has started, the expropriation of the property needed for the training ground is underway, but there are still many challenges ahead. One of the biggest is providing the infrastructure needed for the base, Latvian Radio reported March 1.

The Saeima Defense, Internal Affairs and Prevention of Corruption Committee also discussed the construction of the base during a visit to Staburags in Aizkraukle this week, where Ivars Vucāns, head of the National Centre for Defense Military Facilities and Procurement, explained that the shooting ranges are being designed first.

"The armed forces have divided its needs into several rounds, round 1 has been identified. And the deadline for the completion of Phase 1 is December 2025, and we have in principle started all the work related to the design of Phase 1. That's a total of four contracts, but it will not be four construction projects, it will probably be seven, maybe 10 construction projects," Vucāns said.

The first phase of the base development involves the expropriation of 12 properties from private and legal persons, of which the process has been fully completed for 2 properties.

Although construction works have not started yet, soldiers are already using the site for their purposes, said Brigadier General Kaspars Zdanovskis, Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff of the National Armed Forces for Support.

"In cooperation with "Latvian State Forests" - because they own the largest areas - they allow us to use [the area] for tactical training. [..]. We use this area, and we have used it for years," Zdanovskis said.

There are many challenges to the future base, one of the biggest being the road and bridge infrastructure. This will require both large amounts of funding and human resources.

Viktors Līpenīts, Head of the Safety Policy Coordination Unit at the Ministry of Transport, explained that there is currently no concrete list of facilities that will be repaired or rebuilt.

"We have already identified the current situation regarding the transport infrastructure and its capabilities. Now we are waiting for another meeting with the Ministry of Defense, where the needs that will be necessary for the use of the military base, for servicing, will be specified. Only then will we be able to understand what the bottlenecks are, what the infrastructure that needs to be strengthened is and how these projects can be realized and implemented respectively in the further development plans," Līpenīts said.

The municipalities in whose area the base is planned to be built also have concerns about the upcoming construction works.

For Aizkraukle municipality, the biggest concern is the uncertainty about road repairs, said Andris Zālītis, vice-chairman of the municipal council.

"We don't know how it will be, where, what will be repaired, whether it will disturb the local population and their well-being, their living conditions," said Zālītis.

Tthe municipality of Jēkabpils expressed the opinion that a second bridge over the Daugava in Jēkabpils would be needed for the base, as the existing bridge does not have sufficient load-bearing capacity.

Although a construction project for a second bridge has already been developed, the possibility of implementing the project has not yet been found.

Viktors Līpenīts, a representative of the Ministry of Transport, stressed that "as regards a new bridge in Jēkabpils, there is currently no decision that a specific project will be implemented, but discussions have certainly taken place and possibilities are being explored".

Another challenge facing municipalities is the provision of housing for soldiers and their families who wish to live closer to the base.

"We are talking about 2,000 who will permanently stay inside this training ground and military base, but there will be incoming units every day from the NBS, from different units coming here to train with live ammunition and to train with already advanced weapon systems," Zdanovskis said.

The Sēlija military training ground will cover an area of about 25,000 hectares in the Jēkabpils and Aizkraukle municipalities. Around €700 million, including allied and national funding, is planned to be invested in the construction of the site.

The first construction works could start at the end of this year or early next year.

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