would let Navy give battleship to state
The heroic battleship USS New
Jersey is significantly closer to returning to its namesake state
following U.S. Senate approval late Thursday of the defense appropriation
The Senate action gave New Jersey a victory
over California in the effort to obtain the second of the four
Iowa-class battleships for a museum.
Language inserted into the bill by New
Jersey Sens. Robert Torricelli and Frank Lautenberg, both Democrats,
would allow the Navy to donate the ship as a museum by removing
it from reserve status for possible reactivation.
'It's a good day for New Jersey. New Jersey
won a significant battle between states and powerful military
and civilian interests,' Torricelli said.
Once the bill becomes law, the Navy will
be able to consider the Battleship New Jersey Commission request
or any other application to bring the ship back to New Jersey
as a floating museum. The commission is proposing to berth the
ship, now mothballed in Bremerton, Wash., at Ocean Marine Terminal
in Bayonne across from Staten Island in the lower New York Harbor.
Meanwhile, a South Jersey coalition is
forging ahead to develop a proposal for the ship to come home
to the Camden Waterfront on the Delaware River near its birthplace.
'The ship has served its country for more
than 50 years with distinction as a decorated veteran of foreign
wars and international conflicts,' said Lautenberg, a World War
II veteran. 'Now she will act as a living memorial to the men
and women who gave their lives in sacrifice to freedom and liberty
at the same time that it serves as an educational museum for
The House passed a similar proposal in
May. However, because the House defense bill carries different
language on the future of the battleship, the final legislation
likely will not be worked out by a conference committee until
the fall, according to the senators. Until then, the Navy cannot
consider any applications from any group that may want the ship.
What the Senate proposal means is that
the USS Iowa would replace the New Jersey on the reserve list,
frustrating California's effort to bring that ship there as a
museum. The House version states specifically that the New Jersey
must go to its home state.
'We're very pleased with the Senate action.
We have been working on this for 20 years now,' said state Assemblyman
Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, chairman of the New Jersey Battleship
Commission. 'Once the Navy lets it go, we have to be ready to
State Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester,
said he and Camden Mayor Milton Milan have been invited to appear
at a battleship commission meeting next month in Jersey City
to discuss the future home of the ship.
'We are simply asking the battleship commission
for the opportunity to have South Jersey's voice heard and are
appreciative of the commission's offer to hear us in the near
future,' Matheussen said.<
'Our Waterfront can provide the tourists
needed to bring the battleship here since Philadelphia attracts
3 million of them a year. The river has the channel depth, the
berthing and a strong supportive transportation system on land
and on the water. We have tremendous support from an economic
development and financial standpoint from interested parties
on both sides of the river.'
Matheussen and Democratic Camden County
Freeholder Patricia Jones are members of a newly formed interest
group that includes the Delaware River Port Authority, Camden
County Improvement Authority, Philadelphia Tourism Office, Cooper's
Ferry Development Corp. and Camden County Veterans Office.
So far 45 municipalities in South Jersey
have passed resolution in support of the ship coming to Camden
as a tourist attraction. In addition, Matheussen said he has
received a citizens petition with more than 1,000 signatures
of people favoring the Camden location.
Matheussen and Jones said the group has
been meeting to formulate a physical and financial plan for the
berthing and maintenance of the ship in the Delaware River in
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