Destroyers are docked at Naval Station Everett earlier this year. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Destroyers are docked at Naval Station Everett earlier this year. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Local leaders call for more ships at Naval Station Everett

In a new report, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen advocates for more Navy and Coast Guard vessels at the base.

EVERETT — Local and state leaders are working to bring more ships to Naval Station Everett after it was announced last year that the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier once stationed here, would not return.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen has released a new report outlining why the base should house more Navy and Coast Guard assets. Some reasons include the base’s location and its natural deep-water port. It was built to support the giant aircraft carriers.

The report’s timing coincides with the authorization of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which has been approved by Congress and is awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature.

The National Defense Authorization Act allows appropriations and sets policies for the Department of Defense.

Naval Station Everett opened in April 1994 — it recently celebrated a quarter-century of service. Three years later, the base welcomed its first aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln.

In 2011, that ship moved to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, and a year later the USS Nimitz arrived in Everett.

The Nimitz stayed here until 2015. It was then sent to Naval Station Kitsap in Bremerton for what was expected to be a 16-month maintenance period. After more than three years, the Navy announced in September 2018 that the ship would not return to Everett.

Naval Station Everett was built with space for seven warships, one being an aircraft carrier.

Currently five destroyers are stationed here along with two smaller Coast Guard ships — one that tends to buoys and another that patrols the coast.

Larsen represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes parts of Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties, as well as all of Island and San Juan counties. He’s also on the House Armed Services Committee.

His new report lays out why Naval Station Everett is the right place for more resources.

First, the base is a natural deep-water port, one of only two on the West Coast owned by the Navy. The other is Naval Base San Diego in California.

“Unlike other carrier homeports, (Naval Station Everett) has no tidal restrictions, bridges, or other obstructions between port and the open ocean and does not require dredging to maintain depth,” according to the report.

Larsen argues the Navy made a mistake when it took away the installation’s aircraft carrier because the base isn’t being used to its full potential. Naval Station Everett is also the Navy’s newest base. No other installation has been built since 1994.

He also believes Everett is a great place for military families to live. Each carrier brings a crew of nearly 3,000 sailors, and destroyers bring about 300. Their families often move to the area, as well.

“Everett is a supportive community, with a high standard of living, access to high-quality education, great jobs for military spouses and committed local partners,” Larsen’s report says. “Naval Station Everett is truly ‘the Sailor’s Choice.’ ”

The Navy expects to build nine new frigates, a type of warship, by 2024, according to the report.

Naval Station Everett has supported frigates in the past, and Larsen hopes the ships could eventually return.

The Navy also has a goal to boost its fleet. It now has about 290 deployable ships, a number expected to increase to 355 over the next few decades.

During this year’s annual State of the Station address, Naval Station Everett commanding officer Capt. Mike Davis talked about the possibility of expanding the base in the coming years, but nothing has been set.

“We haven’t heard any official Navy announcement yet of homeporting more ships here,” spokesperson Kristin Ching said.

Larsen’s report points out that Naval Station Everett is part of a maritime transportation hub, with the Port of Everett sharing the same shoreline.

Earlier this year the port partnered with Nichols Brothers Boat Builders to open a shipyard called Everett Ship Repair that can work on military vessels with its nearly 500-foot-long drydock, according to the port.

“The addition of a new shipyard just steps away from (Naval Station Everett) makes it even more attractive as a homeporting location for the Navy and (Coast Guard),” Larsen wrote.

At the beginning of 2019, the Coast Guard began to build its first offshore patrol cutter, to be used as a link between national security cutters in the open ocean and other vessels closer to shore. The patrol cutters also interrupt drug trafficking.

In all, the Coast Guard plans to build 25 of those ships, with the first to be released in 2022.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin has spent time in the nation’s capital lobbying for more ships, too.

“The mayor has been to the Pentagon once this year and is planning to go again early next year to meet with high-ranking officials, to repeat that Everett wants to see more assets and loves the Navy,” said Bob Bolerjack, the city’s executive director of state, regional and military affairs.

More ships could strengthen the local economy. About 2,900 people work at Naval Station Everett, making it one of the largest employers in Snohomish County. Roughly 3,000 sailors are assigned to each aircraft carrier, meaning the arrival of one in Everett would more than double the number of people working on the base.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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