Sub tower needs new home
Mare Island-made USS Vallejo faces orders to relocate
By Sarah Rohrs
Posted: 11/14/2009 01:30:10 AM PST
It took a fleet of government officials to get portions of the USS Mariano G. Vallejo submarine returned to Vallejo, and now a historic foundation may need to find it a new home.
The USS Vallejo nuclear submarine's conning tower, or sail, is on the Mare Island waterfront near dry docks 1 and 2.
Development firm Lennar Mare Island has told the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation the tower must be moved so the area can undergo environmental clean-up next month, firm spokesman Jason Keadjian said.
The conning tower is black and painted with the number 658. It is a 40-foot-long segment with tiny windows that emerged first when the submarine rose out of the water.
Foundation president Ken Zadwick said the tower should remain on the Mare Island waterfront as a testament to the shipyard.
"It needs to be seen by the public from across the river," Zadwick said. "This is like the Statue of Liberty for us. It's the only thing we have that represents the 513 ships built on Mare Island."
Zadwick said he found a local business willing to move the tower to a Mare Island waterfront spot near the Art Ship, but LMI informed him, in a Nov. 9 letter, that spot would be unsuitable.
The city has been working with Lennar Mare Island and the historic park foundation for several months trying to identify a spot for the 132,000-pound tower, Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom said.
Both the city and LMI said the land where the tower sits is now owned by LMI, but
would be transferred to the city following environmental clean-up.
"It's fairly simple. The tower needs to be moved to allow for environmental remediation," Whittom said. Some options are the foundation's Mare Island Museum property or Alden Park near Captain's Row on Walnut Avenue, Whittom said.
Keadjian said waterfront options were explored, but none were found. He stressed the firm is deferring to the city's interest to have the conning tower moved to Alden Park or the museum property.
However, Zadwick said moving the tower is not a matter of great urgency. He appealed to the City Council for help this week. He added he is hoping he can work with the city to find a waterfront spot.
If the tower must be moved immediately, Zadwick said it might be possible to put it in the Mare Island Strait temporarily.
The tower is now sitting on wooden planks, and has been painted with a rust-inhibitor, he said. It is within a fenced-off area and can be seen looking while across the Mare Island Strait from the Ferry Building.
Saved from the salvage yard at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, the tower has been on the Mare Island waterfront since 1995. It was transported on the USS Sperry on its way to the Benicia's Mothball Fleet in the Suisun Bay, Zadwick said.
The tower made its way to Mare Island via a barge and then was put on a train car where it was delivered to its present spot, he said.
To try to save the USS Vallejo, Zadwick, former Vallejo Mayor Tony Intintoli, and federal officials lobbied the Navy. At one point, the military agreed to sell entire submarine for $10 million, Zadwick said.
Later, Naval officials agreed to make portions of the submarine available, which included the tower, plus the control panel, periscope and anchor chain now stored at the Mare Island Museum.
Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum executive director Jim Kern said the conning tower "is significant because it's the only remaining part of the USS Vallejo, among the most famous ships built on Mare Island."
"It needs to be somewhere where it's on public view for the greatest number of people," Kern added.