battleship site lacks crucial approval
MOUNT HOLLY - The New Jersey Battleship
Commission lacks a critical approval necessary to place the state's
namesake battleship at a pier in Bayonne, according to the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers.
Without corps approval, the commission's quest to obtain the
ship from the Navy for a floating museum at Bayonne - the only
competition for a site along the Camden Waterfront - could be
"It (the commission) has not even applied for a construction
permit for permanent mooring," said Joe Seebode, chief of
regulatory operations for the corps' New York District, which
includes North Jersey.
"We have been notified by the commission that they will
likely be seeking approval of a permanent mooring on the south
side of the Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne on the Port Jersey
channel, but they have not made a formal request yet. We understand
the Camden site already has its approvals."
The battleship left Bremerton, Wash., last month under tow
and is now along the Pacific coast of Mexico en route to the
Panama Canal and its temporary berth in Philadelphia. It will
remain on the Delaware River, where it was built at the former
Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in the early 1940s, until the Navy
decides which city will become its permanent home.
The Navy requires a docking site meet all technical requirements,
including regulatory approvals from the agency that controls
the navigable waters in that location.
Navy officials said they give each applicant "sufficient
time" to respond to questions during the application review
process, but can eliminate any applicant that does not meet the
minimum requirements for local, state or federal approvals.
Retired Rear Adm. Thomas Seigenthaler said the Camden site
proposed by the Homeport Alliance, a regional nonprofit group
that submitted the Camden application, has the necessary regulatory
approvals. He declined comment on the commission's Bayonne application.
Seebode said the review process for a battleship mooring in
Bayonne could take anywhere from six weeks to months if environmental
or navigational questions arise.
Because the Navy has set a deadline of early January by which
to make its decision, it is unclear whether the commission could
obtain its approvals in time - or even if the site will qualify
for such a permit.
Apparently, the state-sanctioned commission submitted its
application to the Navy May 17 without full regulatory approvals.
Recently, battleship commission chairman Assemblyman Joseph
Azzolina, R-Monmouth, appeared before the Harbor Safety, Navigation
and Operations Committee, an advisory group representing maritime
interests in the New York-New Jersey port, and asked for its
blessing on the Bayonne berth.
Harbor pilots, however, questioned the difficulty of maneuvering
around a battleship in the Port Jersey channel. They said shallow
water on one side of the entrance from the main harbor channel,
coupled with the larger size of today's container ships, already
makes it tricky to enter the Global/Auto Marine Terminal directly
across from the Bayonne pier.
There are government plans and some funding available to dredge
the shallow area, known as the Jersey Flats. But Corps officials
said the timetable for completion is the summer of 2002.
Before a frustrated Azzolina left, he pounded a fist on a
table and told the port group they would be giving the battleship
to Camden if they did not agree to sanction the Bayonne site,
according to several people who attended the meeting.
"I was very surprised to hear they did not have these
type of approvals on a Navy application submitted on May 17.
Based on the geography of the areas, one would have to say there
are a lot more questions on the Bayonne site than the Camden
site," said Lt. Commander Chris Nichols, vessel traffic
branch chief for Coast Guard Activities New York and a Somerdale
native who was at that meeting.
Battleship commission spokesman Gordon Bishop said he could
not comment specifically on which approvals the commission has.
He said Azzolina is working with the commission's technical team
on what he called "tying up loose ends" with the state
Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of
Azzolina was out of town and could not be reached for comment.
"October will be the windup period. Knowing the Navy,
they can keep this review process open for as long as necessary,"
"The Navy is doing a thorough job asking questions, and
we're optimistic. They asked a second round of questions to Bayonne
but not to Camden. If Bayonne does not have all the approvals
necessary, I think that is rather telling and could be a significant
factor," said Rep. James Saxton, R-N.J., who supports the
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