IGO — The state-owned and -operated Northern California Veterans Cemetery is being expanded to provide more above-ground interment space for cremated ashes.
A near $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will allow the cemetery to build 10 columbaria walls containing 2,000 niches for cremated remains.
The state Department of Veterans Affairs sought and obtained the $900,174 federal grant to provide for the new columbaria niches.
“This expansion in the number of columbaria will allow us to provide veterans and their families with a place to honor the memory of loved ones who gave so much to preserve our nation’s freedoms and way of life,” said Peter J. Gravett, secretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
He made his comment during a ceremony this week at the cemetery that included representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, including Frank Salvas, director of state cemetery grants service.
The construction contract has been awarded to E.C. Smith Inc. of Anderson, which already has begun work on the project.
This is the first expansion of the cemetery, which has a 70 percent cremation interment rate, since it was opened in 2005. The statewide average is 64 percent.
The 2,000 new niches should be enough for approximately the next 10 years, said Stephen Jorgensen, the cemetery’s administrator.
The cemetery’s existing columbaria walls have 1,600 niches, but it’s expected they will be at capacity this month.
The project is to be done in phases with the first five walls expected to be finished by the end of the year, weather permitting.
In the meantime, Jorgensen said, in-ground burials for cremated remains will be an option.
The Northern California Veterans Cemetery is the first state-owned and -operated veterans cemetery in the state.
It serves the veteran population in 18 Northern California counties, including Shasta County, and the developed area of the cemetery provides sufficient burial space for more than 30 years with room for future expansion.