Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bringing ships back

Bringing ships back
Officials search specifically for ship-related land use
By JESSICA A. YORK/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 09/11/2008

Dry dock No. 2 at Mare Island may become active once again, as companies examine possibilities of revitalizing ship-related uses of the Mare Island facilities. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)

In the latest round of renewed interest in Mare Island's dry docks, one as of yet unnamed company may be the first to apply for a city planning permit.

Vallejo planning staff, in conjunction with dock owners Lennar Mare Island, only recently designed a plan detailing site development and business use guidelines for the island's dry docks No. 2, 3 and 4.

Plan development unit plans are required for all Mare Island projects, but this plan goes a step further by looking specifically at ship-related land use in the city, Vallejo Senior Planner Michelle Hightower said Tuesday.

"We were told there were a number of interested parties and because this is something new for the city, we really wanted to take a look at what we would need as a city," Hightower said.

Though Mare Island is a former naval base, the island is not home to any existing ship-related business, Hightower said.

Hightower would not disclose the name of the prospective applicant, only saying the city was hoping to receive the unit plan application in coming weeks.

The applicant is not required to have a current lease with the property owner, but LMI, also the island's master developer, must sign off on the application.

Lennar Mare Island has at least seven entities actively interested in leasing the island's dry docks for a variety of mostly ship-related purposes, said LMI spokesman Jason Keadjian.

Keadjian said that companies have been interested in using the dry docks for years, but only recently has potential funding backing also been available. One such contract comes from the U.S. Maritime Administration, which has approved Petaluma-based Allied Defense Recycling to dismantle four of its decommissioned Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet vessels at Mare Island.

Allied has also received a water discharge permit from the San Francisco Bay Region Regional Water Quality Control Board, valid from Sept. 1 through 2013, allowing a ship building and recycling facility on Mare Island. When last contacted, the company was seeking an Army Corps of Engineers permit to conduct dredging of the silt in the water around the dry dock doors. A representative from Allied could not be reached Tuesday.

Keadjian acknowledged that one potential tenant "is further down the road than the others" with responding to the city unit plan. He would not elaborate.

"We are very encouraged by the interest that we've received recently ... (especially) because it appears that there are contracts available at this time that would help to finance the substantial projects that would make the dry docks usable."

Keadjian said some needed maintenance work includes silt dredging near the dry dock doors, which have not been used in nearly a decade, and mechanical and electrical work for the system.

A caisson stretches across the mouth of Mare Island dry dock No. 2, keeping the water of the Mare Island Strait out for the moment. Development plans are being studied that could bring ship-related projects back to the island, making use of the dry docks. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)

• E-mail Jessica A. York at or call 553-6834.