Ed Friedrich, Kitsap Sun, Mar. 5
The Navy intends to lengthen a pier at Bangor so it can shift two Seawolf-class submarines there from Bremerton.
USS Seawolf and USS Connecticut arrived July 22, 2007, and Jan. 29, 2008, respectively, at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton from New London, Connecticut. They're the only subs to call Bremerton home. It was never meant to be permanent.
A 2004 Navy assessment recommended homeporting them at Bremerton and keeping the third boat in the class, USS Jimmy Carter, at Bangor in the short term but eventually basing all three at Bangor, according to a draft environmental impact statement for the pier work.
Bangor's service pier would be extended 540 feet to a total of 1,040, under the Navy's preferred alternative. The other choice is to build a 975-foot extension. Associated new facilities in either case would include a pier crane and pier services and compressor building, 50,000-square-foot waterfront ship support building, shoreside emergency generator and 421-car parking lot. The estimated cost is $89 million.
The changes would allow maintenance to be performed on all three subs simultaneously, though only two would normally be in port at the same time.
Problems at Bremerton cut into the subs' availability. Seawolfs can only transit Rich Passage, which separates Bremerton from open water, in the daylight during high slack tides, the Navy says. On 144 days a year, they have less than 90 minutes to slip through. On 12 days, they can't go at all. In 2012, four of every nine transits were delayed from 12 to 48 hours, resulting in five lost days.
Pier D, where they're berthed, is designed for aircraft carriers and isn't configured for submarine maintenance and ordnance handling, the Navy says. The Seawolfs are assigned to Submarine Development Squadron Five, headquartered at Bangor, and the training facility also is there.
What isn't there is space for the Seawolfs. The Delta Pier is fully used by Ohio-class subs and isn't configured for Seawolfs, project manager David Gibson said during a public meeting Wednesday night at North Kitsap High School. The Marginal Wharf is 70 years old, in rough shape and appropriate only for smaller service boats. Subs can wait there in a pinch, but no maintenance can be performed.
The Navy supports the shorter pier, where subs can be maintained side-by-side, over a longer pier where two could pull up alongside.
"It costs the taxpayer less money and has less environmental footprint," Gibson said. "The shorter pier has fewer piles and less overwater coverage."