Battleship could be in N.J. by mid-July |
by CAROL COMEGNO
The Navy could transfer the USS New Jersey as early as mid-July to the South Jersey group that will open it as a museum on the Camden Waterfront in 2001, Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., said Friday.
He said the Environmental Protection Agency is about to finalize its study of contaminants aboard the ship that need remedial action -- a prerequisite to the Navy contract to turn over the ship.
Efforts are also under way by the Home Port Alliance to find sites on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River to repair the ship.
Saxton said the Beckett Street Terminal of the South Jersey Port Corp. in Camden would be a likely and "appropriate site" for docking and repairing the ship, now at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in an inactive ships mooring. Former Navy ships like the carrier Kitty Hawk were built at the Beckett Street Terminal.
Eventually the battleship will be moved to a new pier to be built behind the E-Centre in Camden for the permanent museum.
Rear Adm. Thomas Seigenthaler said it is premature to say where the ship will be moved. However, he confirmed that talks are going on to move the battleship to the Beckett Street Terminal during the Republican National Convention at the end of July.
Another site being studied for renovation of the ship is a vacant BP Amoco refinery pier in Paulsboro, he said.
"The impetus for a temporary move to the Beckett Street Terminal for the convention is coming from Gov. Christie Whitman's office in Trenton," Seigenthaler said.
Towing costs are involved each time the ship is moved.
"We would like to bring the ship to New Jersey for its repairs, but nothing has yet been finalized," he said.
But Paulsboro is already preparing for its arrival. The theme of the city's Fourth of July parade is "Welcome USS New Jersey," according to parade organizers. BP Amoco said in its newsletter that the ship is coming there to stay for six to nine months.
The General Accounting Office is expected to complete a review of the ship docking in Camden in August. But the results of that study of whether the ship should go to Camden or Bayonne aren't expected to change the outcome, Saxton said.
Rep. Marge Roukema, R-Ridgewood, in March asked the General Accounting Office to review the Navy's decision. She had supported a competing plan to bring the ship to Bayonne, across the harbor from New York City.
Both cities want to host the battleship in hopes that tourists will flock to a battleship museum.