Marco Rubio Urges Navy to Use Damaged Ship as Artificial Reef Off Florida Coast

This week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called on the U.S. Navy to use the USS Bonhomme Richard as an artificial reef.

Last month, U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., teamed up on the matter.

“The USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) is an 844-foot-long Wasp-class amphibious assault ship that sustained major fire damage last year and is unable to return to service,” Salazar’s office noted. “After determining that the options to repair the ship were deemed too costly, the United States Navy recently announced it will decommission the USS Bonhomme Richard. According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the Navy is projected to spend approximately $30 million in preparation to scrap the ship. Instead of sending it to scrap, Congresswoman Salazar is urging the Navy to consider this alternative approach that would provide environmental and economic benefits and allow the legacy of the USS Bonhomme Richard to continue.

“As of May 2020, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported over 3,600 artificial reef deployment locations state-wide. Artificial reefs are evenly divided between state and federal waters and range from 4 feet in depth to 414 feet (average depth 65 feet). The artificial reefs play a critical role in the conservation of endangered corals and marine life,” the congresswoman’s office added.

Salazar weighed in on the proposal last month.

“We must strive to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and of our precious environment. Sinking the USS Bonhomme Richard off our coast is a much more cost-effective measure than preparing it for scrap metal,” said Salazar. “I look forward to spearheading these innovative efforts that conserve our environment, strengthen our economy, and support our veterans.”

Now Rubio is joining suit, writing to acting U.S. Navy Sec. Thomas Harker calling on the Navy to “use the USS Bonhomme Richard as an artificial reef in the waters off Florida, which would be a more economically and ecologically productive alternative to scrapping the vessel, and would be a more fitting way to honor those who served on the ship.”

Rubio’s office released the letter on Monday.

“I write in support of utilizing the USS Bonhomme Richard in the waters off Florida as an artificial reef. I believe that preserving the ship as an artificial reef would be a fitting way to honor the brave sailors who served on the USS Bonhomme Richard, including those who placed themselves in danger to save lives and battle the fire that ravaged the vessel last July,” Rubio wrote Harker. “The state of Florida has the unique experience and capacity in creating artificial reefs.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) maintains one of the most active and effective artificial reef programs in the country.  As of October 2020, the FWC has masterfully created more than 3,700 artificial reefs in Florida’s waters using best practices and science to sink vessels and other structures safely, and in a manner of the utmost regard for wildlife and the environment.  These reefs are ecologically and economically important.  Artificial reefs serve as habitat for native reef fish and help maintain fish stocks, supporting Florida’s robust tourism and recreational fishing economies.  Additionally, as the USS Bonhomme Richard is one of only eight Wasp-class amphibious assault ships ever built, the ship would offer a unique diving experience.

“According to reports, the U.S. Navy currently intends to scrap the USS Bonhomme Richard at a cost of approximately $30 million.  The state of Florida has indicated that utilizing the vessel as an artificial reef would be far less costly and time consuming, and would certainly be much more economically and ecologically productive,” Rubio added. “I stand ready to facilitate discussion and coordination between you and the state of Florida should you wish to pursue this potentially mutually beneficial effort.  Thank you for your consideration.”

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com

 

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