The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has approved Bowdoin's application to acquire 175 developable acres of land at no cost from the Brunswick Naval Air Station (NASB) when the base closes in 2011. With formal support from both town officials and the DOE, the College now awaits final approval from the U.S. Navy, a process that could take three to four years.

Naval approval and subsequent conveyance of the land is contingent on a variety of environmental surveys of the land parcel. The Navy must first complete an environmental remediation of the area, where it will search for and clean up any contamination.

Katy Longley, Bowdoin's senior vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, said she does not think much contamination will be found, since the land was not heavily used by the military.

The conveyance is also dependent on an environmental analysis that will identify areas not developable because of sensitive plant species.

The size of the parcel is actually closer to 320 acres. The College and the Town of Brunswick applied for it jointly last year under an agreement whereby the College would get 175 developable acres, while the town would keep 145 acres in conservation easements. The upcoming environmental surveys are expected to determine exactly which pieces of the land will go to Bowdoin and which will become public land.

"We're going to get a certain amount of developable land," said President Barry Mills, "What needs to be resolved is how much land is developable and where it is."

Neither Mills and Longley said they anticipate contentious negotiations over how the land will be divided between the school and the town.

"It's a question of getting surveyors out there to understand what the property looks like," Mills said. "It shouldn't be complicated."

Longley said that the earliest the property would be developable is 2011, when the base shuts down. Bowdoin's application to the DOE proposed preliminary development plans that include residence halls, classroom and laboratory buildings, athletic fields, maintenance and technology buildings, and parking.

Longley said that the College will "keep the commitment that we are going to develop the land at a certain investment level," but that the details of the plan could change before it acquires the land. She said that the student body will likely grow in the next 10 to 40 years, and that the BNAS land "gives the College a resource we've never had before."

Although the conveyance depends on the results of the environmental surveys and Naval approval, Longley said that receiving DOE approval means the process is past a "major hurdle."

"The process is moving in a positive direction," agreed Mills. "But until the deed is conveyed, it's not done."