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Published: Thursday, October 7, 2010, 11:49 p.m.

Radar ship to bypass Everett

Controversial vessel will go to Seattle for repairs

  • Ronen Zilberman / Associated Press 
The Sea-Based X-Band Radar sails into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, aboard the MV Blue Marlin in January 2006.

    Ronen Zilberman / Associated Press The Sea-Based X-Band Radar sails into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, aboard the MV Blue Marlin in January 2006.

EVERETT — The gigantic radar ship called the SBX will come to the Northwest — but not to Everett’s waterfront.
The Sea-Based X-Band Radar will undergo maintenance on its propulsion systems at Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle.
Naval Station Everett and Naval Air Station North Island at San Diego were considered as potential locations for maintenance because of their deep-water ports.
The Missile Defense Agency did not choose Everett because Navy officials couldn’t guarantee pier space would be available for the SBX next year, said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., who made the announcement Thursday in a media release. He’s in a tight election race with Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, a Republican.
“There’s only so much pier space for aircraft carriers,” he said.
Everett’s aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, is expected back in port this February.
The $900 million platform is part of a national defense system designed to track incoming ballistic missiles. Its homeport is in the small Aleutian Island town of Adak, Alaska, but it almost ended up here.
In 2003, the Department of Defense considered permanently anchoring the SBX at Naval Station Everett.
The idea didn’t go over well with neighbors, who worried about the potential health hazards associated with operating a powerful radar station in port.
People also groused about the platform sitting on Everett’s waterfront: It’s 25 stories tall and looks like a giant, floating golf trophy.
When the Navy brought up the possibility of bringing the SBX back to Everett for temporary repairs, people again objected to the idea — even after the government said it wouldn’t operate the giant radar in port.
Mayor Ray Stephanson didn’t care for the idea at the time, partly because he worried it would interfere with the Navy’s core mission.
He’s thrilled about the decision. Area contractors get some of the work, but Naval Station Everett can be left to concentrate on the Navy ships already there.
“Todd Shipyards is an industrial area; it’s a private shipyard that can really accommodate this type of maintenance work really effectively,” he said.
Although officials aren’t saying public opinion factored into the decision, the mayor suspects the agency officials did pay attention to widespread opposition to the SBX in the community.
The Navy held meetings in Everett and on south Whidbey Island to let people ask questions and voice their concerns.
“I think they were listening to us,” Stephanson said. “It definitely helped them come to the right decision.”
Debra Smith: 425-339-3197, dsmith@heraldnet.com

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