Thursday, September 17, 2009

Firm pushes M.I. dry dock plan

Firm pushes M.I. dry dock plan
By Jessica A. York
Posted: 09/17/2009

Interested community members take a tour Wednesday around the Mare Island dry docks that California Dry Dock Solutions proposes to use in ship dismantling, if the city will approve its plan. A question-and-answer session followed the day's two tours. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)

The potential reopening of two Mare Island dry docks drew more than four dozen spectators to a tour of the docks and a community meeting Wednesday.

California Dry Docks Solutions representatives acknowledged concerns about the industrial nature of the company, which plans to secure four federal ship dismantling contracts. Industrial and non-industrial compatibility will be an ongoing issue, officials said; some consider it a positive marriage, and others a negative one.

"This is not a Starbucks, this is heavy marine industry," said company CEO Jay Anast. "It's up to you -- the community -- if you want that in your city."

Anast said diesel machinery, including truck and crane operations, would come with the business. But so would jobs, industry and property taxes, he said.

The company is awaiting test results on soil from Mare Island Strait, in front of the two large moveable dry dock doors. If contamination levels are low enough, the company will be able to dredge up and remove the dirt for ships in the nearby Suisun Bay National Defense Reserve Fleet.

Developer Lennar Mare Island's vice president and general manager, Tom Sheaff, defended the seemingly slow movement in reopening the former shipyard. The company was hired by the city to clean up and develop much of Mare Island, and has fielded many marine and ship-related requests for the former naval docks. The 2000 collapse of the Pegasus shipping company gave them pause, though, Sheaff said.

If California Dry Docks Solutions acquires planned ship dismantling contracts, the government maintains ownership and liability for the ships during breakdown, Anast said.

While many applauded the reported 12 years the company has put into coming to Mare Island and its plans to hire locals first, others questioned the financial stability of its plan.

Sheaff said the company's stay on Mare Island would last as long as it is financially viable. If the company does not continue to expand and/or garner future contracts, Lennar Mare Island and eventually Vallejo will have saved money in upkeep, liability and other issues for the length of California Dry Docks Solutions' lease, he said.

Members of the Historic Ships Memorial at Pacific Square accused Lennar officials of changing their vision for the dry dock area, unhappy at the potential loss of a site to moor the USS Iowa as a museum.

Contact staff writer Jessica A. York at (707) 553-6834 or