Larsen: Navy to add ships in Everett, jets on Whidbey

EVERETT — Based on a new plan announced on Friday, the cities of Everett and Oak Harbor could be assured of a strong U.S. Naval presence for years to come.

The Nimitz will remain based at Naval Station Everett at least through 2022, according to the plan, announced by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen.

The Navy also plans to accelerate a plan to move three destroyers to Naval Station Everett and wants to double the number of P-8A Poseidon aircraft based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Larsen said.

The decision makes the Navy’s reliance on the two bases secure into the foreseeable future, he said.

“If there was any lingering concern about the future of our naval bases, this news will lay it to rest,” Larsen said in a statement. “I have worked for over a decade with local leaders to make the case to the Navy why northwest Washington is the best place to base these assets. The Navy clearly agrees.”

Each of three frigates scheduled to be decommissioned in Everett will immediately be replaced by newer, state-of-the art destroyers at the time, Larsen said.

Under a previous plan, the ships would not have been replaced right away, he said.

“When the frigates left there was going to be a time gap. Now the Navy has decided to do an immediate one-for-one swap.”

There are already two destroyers based at Naval Station Everett, the Momsen and the Shoup. If this plan goes through, five total destroyers will be based in Everett.

The Navy also confirmed it will keep the USS Nimitz homeported at Naval Station Everett through at least 2022, Larsen said Friday. The ship will be sent to a routine dry-dock in Bremerton for a period around 2015, he said.

Pending the completion of an environmental study, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island will by 2018 be home to all seven Pacific squadrons of the P-8A Poseidons.

The additional aircraft will come from a canceled plan to base three fleet squadrons in Hawaii.

Instead of the planned 24 P-8A Poseidons, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island will now be home to 49 of those aircraft.

The allocation will increase the total number of squadrons based in Oak Harbor from 20 to 23 and increase personnel at the base by a total of 7 percent, Larsen said.

“The additional P-8As will bring hundreds of new military families and will create hundreds of local jobs in the next few years as the base constructs new facilities,” he said in the written statement.

Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson added, “As a member of the Navy League, I am ebullient about the news. This is a testimony to the long standing efforts of the community, local and state officials, to put aside ideology and promote the best outcome for the people.”

The P-8A Poseidon is a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

At Naval Station Everett the destroyers will replace frigates in fiscal years 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Updated figures for possible personnel increases for Everett were not immediately available. Last year, when possible assignment of the new ships was discussed, Larsen estimated a possible increase of more than 200 sailors, from about 3,956 to 4,235.

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson met with Navy officials in the Pentagon last month, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.

“Today’s announcements further demonstrate the Navy’s long term commitment to Naval Station Everett and the installation’s strategic value to the nation,” Stephanson said in a written statement on Friday.

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