Monday, May 24, 2010

Mare Island dry docks one step closer to Reopening in Vallejo

Mare Island dry docks one step closer to Reopening in Vallejo

A proposed Mare Island project described as "not your grandfather's dry docks," was universally lauded Thursday by a state Bay waters oversight commission and the public. In a 17-0 vote, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission approved the reuse of two dormant former Mare Island Naval Shipyard dry docks, and the dredging of accumulated silt in the Mare Island Strait.

The action was a key one in the future of the former shipyard -- and Vallejo -- and could launch new activity at the historic dry docks that have been dormant since 1996. But hurdles remain. Allied Recycling Defense officials, who are applying for project permits, hope to initially fund their ship recycling, repair and maintenance venture by winning the right to dismantle some of the remaining retired Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet "mothball" ships.

While winning federal backing for that dismantling has not yet occurred, Allied Recycling Defense's project did win strong backing at Thursday's hearing. "You seldom have an opportunity to pass on an application that is a win-win for all parties involved in the application," Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis told the commission. "This could just be the project that gives hope to the community again, that we can and we will. I encourage you to look at this as more than just an application ... (it's a) catalyst for a community that is struggling."

Davis was one of 11 speakers, including local business and labor leaders, and even some of the proposed shipyard's would-be neighbors. The window for dredging in the strait with the least impact to local fish is a narrow one -- beginning in August and ending in October. Anast said if this year's window closes without the company beginning operations, there may not be enough mothballed ships to make his venture viable.

"We have an incredibly short time in which to get this done," Anast said. Anast's concerns rise with the commission's conditional approval, requiring final operation comments from local and federal fish protection agencies. Those agencies will seek to protect endangered fish life that may be affected by the dry docks' reuse after 14 years of dormancy.