One of the major steps in making the project happen is securing the final berthing location. In that regard, here is the progress made so far:
The Assistant Secretary of the Navy responsible for Navy facilities worldwide met with three of our board members and the CO of Naval Station Newport on this concept. We were gratified to receive official confirmation from the Navy that they would entertain a proposal for a public‑private partnership on Navy property, so long as the proposal did not have a negative effect on the Navy’s mission.
The base commander and his staff provided our engineers with a wealth of data to help us meet those requirements. We inspected the utilities available at the pier, and have concluded they are sufficient for our needs. The last major pieces of the puzzle are the interrelated concerns of security, traffic and access.
We submitted our formal proposal for the use of that pier to the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and on July 10, 2015 we received a Letter of Intent to proceed. The letter concludes, “…please accept this letter as an indication of the Navy’s intent to work with the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame to…allow the ex-USS JOHN F. KENNEDY to be successfully berthed and operated at Pier 2 as a museum and memorial.”
The letter also required us to address other areas of potential concern. In September 2015, we met with RADM Williamson (CO, Mid-Atlantic Region), CAPT Rios of NAVFAC, NAVSTA NEWPORT CO CAPT Boyer and his PWO, CDR Butler. They told us we needed to address two major issues before the Navy would consider a more definitive commitment for a public-private partnership of some kind involving long term access to Pier 2 in Coddington Cove.
First, we had to provide some level of assurance that our plans to permanently moor the ship there would not run afoul of EPA requirements concerning the environmental remediation of Coddington Cove, resulting from the Derecktor Shipyard contamination.
Second, bringing JFK to Pier 2 would result in changing the Navy’s security perimeter, so that the carrier, most of the pier and the access from Burma Road (Defense Highway) would be “outside the wire”, so to speak. With that change, the Navy wanted to surrender law enforcement jurisdiction for that area to local authority. That meant we needed a some indication from the Town of Middletown that they were willing to take on that responsibility.
I am pleased to report that we made significant progress in addressing both issues.
1) In January, we finally received the last of the technical and environmental information we needed from the Navy to proceed with our pier proposal.
2) Based on that data, Dr, John King of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography confirmed that no dredging would be required to bring JFK to the pier and permanently berth her there.
3) We presented our proposal to the Navy technical team (Newport and Norfolk) and they agreed that our plan created no real environmental obstacles.
4) The Navy introduced our presentation of the same material to an environmental working group that included representatives of the EPA and RI Department of Environmental Management. That presentation did not raise any red flags with the state or federal environmental officials. The only request EPA made was to send them a copy of the final Environmental Plan we submit to NAVSEA in July.
5) Subsequent to the environmental discussions, we met with Town of Middletown officials concerning potential changes to law enforcement jurisdiction once the Navy moves its security fence line to accommodate public access to Pier 2. We have since received an email from the President of the Town Council confirming that should not be an issue.
Bottom line: The Navy counsel for Mid-Atlantic Region recommended to our attorney that we draft the new, stronger letter we need from the Navy. We submitted that letter to CAPT Rios, NAVFAC, on Friday, March 4.
While awaiting a response to that request, we also completed our Environmental Plan and a partial Business/Financial Plan to Naval Sea Systems Command on July 12, 2016. We do not expect a response to that 500+ page submission before October.