The Herald of Everett, Washington
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Published: Friday, December 17, 2010, 12:01 a.m.

Everett still being eyed for giant ship

City is backup location for defense platform

  • The Sea-Based X-Band Radar sails into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 2006.

    Associated Press

    The Sea-Based X-Band Radar sails into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 2006.

EVERETT — Even though the government said its giant radar ship called the SBX won’t be coming here for repairs, Everett still might get stuck with it.
Missile Defense Agency officials have been quietly filing the necessary environmental paperwork to temporarily anchor it off Everett’s waterfront.
The agency still prefers to get the work done at Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, said Rick Lehner, a Missile Defense Agency spokesman.
They’re also moving forward with Everett — just in case.
“Although a contingency is unlikely, prudent planning requires that we have an alternate,” Lehner said.
The $900 million platform, called the Sea-Based X-Band Radar, is part of a national defense system designed to track incoming ballistic missiles.
It’s 25 stories tall and looks like a giant, floating golf trophy.
The government seriously considered bringing it to Everett to undergo maintenance on its propulsion systems.
Maintenance to the vessel requires a port with water depth of at least 50 feet. Naval Station Everett, along with National Air Station North Island in San Diego, were the only other two facilities on the West Coast with water deep enough for this work.
In October, the agency decided to go with Todd Shipyards, mainly because Navy officials couldn’t guarantee pier space would be available in Everett. The USS Abraham Lincoln is expected back in port this winter, and work on the SBX is scheduled to start in March.
There also was widespread opposition to bringing the SBX to Everett, even temporarily. Its homeport is in the small Aleutian Island town of Adak, Alaska.
The base’s ship operations would always take priority over the SBX, said Kristin Ching, spokeswoman for Naval Station Everett.
“With the Lincoln transferring out and the USS Nimitz coming here next — that will keep us pretty busy,” she said.
The spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency said the chances of the SBX coming to Everett are slim. He also said the agency was making plans for San Diego, another potential site “in the event we have an unforeseen contingency.”
“I don’t see any reason for the SBX to go any other place but Todd Shipyard,” he said.
Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197; dsmith@heraldnet.com.

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