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Dock near Independence Bridge (center) stands ready for USS Edson, destroyer, that may arrive yet this year.

EPA Approval Only Hurdle Remaining for USS Edson Berthing in Bay City

Local Ship Officials Hopeful for Quick Green Light by Environmental Agency

February 18, 2009       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is all that stands between location of the destroyer USS Edson in Bay City.

Michael Kegley and Richard J. Janke, officials of the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum, are hopeful the EPA will green light the ship so it can be towed to Bay City from Philadelphia in the spring or summer.

"It's been a long time and we're keeping our fingers crossed," said Mr. Kegley.

The local ship museum officials are keeping a wary eye on the City of Norfolk, Virginia, and the Navy that are now in the final stages of the donation of the battleship USS Wisconsin.

Because the USS Wisconsin may possess items and materials which contain Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), cancer-related chemical compounds outlawed in 1979, the Environmental Protection Agency must 1) approve the donation by the Navy and 2) approve the way the City handles PCBs that may come to light in the future. The EPA is the only organization which can grant exemptions to the Toxic Substances Control Act, which otherwise prohibits the donation or the use of the ship as a memorial or attraction.

By law, without the exemption, the City of Norfolk might have to spend millions to remove all of these solids before ever opening the ship, the Norfolk group states.

In the case of the Edson, the situation may be different since it was a museum ship for many years in New York City, the local officials said.

Any hazardous materials would have been removed prior to the ship's display in New York, they theorized, since hundreds of thousands of visitors have toured the vessel.

Here, EPA concerns may be more focused on the effect of the ship on the environment of the Saginaw River.

In Norfolk, the ship may be restricted to visits above the decks to limit exposure of the public to any potentially hazardous materials.

According to the Navy, the EPA's National Environmental Policy Act Checklist includes site plans, noise and geological studies, and environmental impact.

Mr. Janke said the SVNSM has been working with Soil & Materials Engineers Inc. (SME), geosciences consulting group of Bay City. All questions have been answered, according to Mr. Janke. The local group has been raising funds for the ship since January 1997. After a campaign to acquire the USS Charles F. Adams was conducted, the availability of the Edson was discovered and the focus shifted.

A $300,000 loan from the Bay County Growth Alliance secured last June put the SVNSM over the top for $619,000 needed for towing and docking the ship and locational expenses. That figure may change depending on the price of diesel oil used by the tugs that will tow the vessel here, said Mr. Janke. After EPA approval, indications are a 60-day Congressional review period will apply to the project. ###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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