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South Jersey

October 05, 1999

Navy's got another reason to award 'Big J' to Camden

Courier-Post staff

If fresh water, historic importance and the many other well-known reasons for locating the USS New Jersey in Camden aren't enough for you, here's another. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the N.J. Battleship Commission hasn't bothered to apply for a construction permit for a permanent mooring in Bayonne.

That should be it. Camden should win. For two primary reasons, this latest snafu should once and for all, without reservation, unequivocably persuade the Navy to send the "Big J" back home to Camden:

--The Navy will pick the final berth site by early January. It takes about two months for the proper agencies to review sites. Camden already has its construction permit.

Right now, nobody even knows if Bayonne qualifies for a construction permit or if a review can be completed in time for the Navy. And there are serious questions about Bayonne, including the ability of harbor pilots to maneuver around the battleship and the timetable for a necessary dredging program. Those are in addition to salt-water corrosion, a desolate location and other factors that weigh heavily against Bayonne.

--The other reason that Camden now should emerge victorious is simply the sheer idiocy of not having - at this stage of the process - a basic permit. This battleship thing didn't just creep up overnight. Everyone fighting for the honor of bringing the ship home knew all along that there are regulatory hurdles to clear.

If what the Corps says is true, what does this say about the Bayonne backers' ability to handle a project of such magnitude? Do they have the necessary talent to ensure that the ship becomes a successful tourist attraction? When something this major - a permit to allow construction at the site that you've been supporting all along - slips through the cracks, a lot of legitimate questions have to be answered.

The Navy already is working its way through the two applications. There's no doubt that it will do a thorough job and ask a lot of tough questions regarding both potential sites. That's how it should be.

And, in the end, we're confident that the Navy will make the right choice. All of the evidence points to Camden as the right place for the "Big J."

Bring the magnificent ship home to the people who built it and will take good care of it for generations to come.

And bring it home to the one site that had the wisdom to secure the necessary permits well in advance.

USS New Jersey Home Page

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