Rather than wasting upwards of $30 million to prepare the fire-ravaged warship for scrapping, some lawmakers are requesting the formerly mighty USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) be sunk in waters near Florida instead. The amphibious assault ship was completing a three-year, $250 million dollar refurbishing to turn it into an F-35B stealth fighter ‘Lighting Carrier,’ when it was destroyed by a fire in July, apparently started by a disgruntled sailor.
Repairing the 844-foot-long Wasp-class amphibious assault ship was deemed too expensive at over $3 billion, and it was decided to decommission and scrap the fatally wounded ship at a cost of $30 million and a one-year process. But now, a bipartisan letter to Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker, signed by 22 lawmakers, notes that, in addition to the cost savings, the ship would serve as an environmental and economic benefit to the local community and state as an artificial reef.
The USS Bonhomme Richard is an ideal candidate for artificial reefing and would be welcomed by the people of Florida…based on the state’s experience, we believe that the U.S. Navy will spend significantly less than $30 million and be able to proceed in an expedited timeline to sink it in Florida as an artificial reef. It is our hope that you will send the USS Bonhomme Richard to Florida where its story and legacy can continue.
Today, @RepDarrenSoto and I led a bipartisan initiative urging the @USNavy to consider preparing and sinking the USS Bonhomme Richard off the coast of #Florida where, as an artificial reef, it could become an environmental and economic benefit to the local community and state. pic.twitter.com/sAsrYsqjq6
— Rep. María Elvira Salazar (@RepMariaSalazar) February 18, 2021
As I wrote at the time, a comprehensive Navy assessment concluded the cost to restore Bonhomme Richard used by the Marines, similar to the ship I deployed on in the late 1980s, could exceed $3 billion and require between five and seven years to complete. Repurposing the warship as a hospital ship, submarine tender, or command-and-control ship could cost over $1 billion, which is as much or more than a new-construction.
This new proposal would “save taxpayers millions of dollars” by sinking it somewhere near the Sunshine State. And the environmental value as an artificial reef would be immense.
However, I would strongly suggest the ship be sunk in relatively shallow water, allowing scuba divers, such as myself, to explore the massive wreck. This would be the best way to honor this fine naval vessel.