New destroyers among plans for increased activity at naval station

EVERETT — U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Lakamp took the stage at Naval Station Everett on Thursday for his first address to a roomful of community leaders.

Lakamp, who transferred here last May to become the base’s commanding officer, used the speech to provide political and business leaders with a rundown of base and regional Navy operations and recent deployments.

The speech, the annual State of the Station address to the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County, was also intended to help strengthen relationships between the military and civilian worlds. They’re already pretty strong, Lakamp said.

“This is the most Navy-friendly community I’ve seen in 24 years of service,” Lakamp said.

Naval Station Everett celebrated its 22nd birthday last week, and while it’s been relatively quiet since the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz was sent to Bremerton for maintenance, it’s going to get busier in the coming years.

That’s because the Navy has announced a total of four Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers will be coming to Everett, bringing with them approximately 1,240 crew on top of the 2,736 active-duty military and civilian personnel currently working at the base and on the two destroyers currently homeported here.

“Right now that’s the biggest thing, getting ready for success with four more crews,” Lakamp said in an interview with The Daily Herald.

The first of the four destroyers, the USS Gridley, is expected to arrive this summer. It will be followed by the USS Sampson in the fall and the USS Kidd in late fall or winter, Lakamp said.

The fourth, the USS Ralph Johnson, is still under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and probably won’t arrive before mid-2017.

The USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, with about 3,000 crew, might return in 2019 from Bremerton, where it has been undergoing extensive maintenance and modernization work.

Preparing the base for their arrival is going to take some work.

The base’s public works department already is working on rebuilding the base’s main gate to protect personnel from the weather, a $665,000 construction project.

The base is also working on a 20-year development plan, which includes constructing new barracks for unaccompanied sailors, and also improving ship maintenance and waterfront facilities.

Naval Station Everett is the second-largest employer in Snohomish County, behind the Boeing Co.

The base produces $318 million in activity per year, said Jim Baumgart, a policy adviser to Gov. Jay Inslee.

The arrival of four destroyers will amount to an additional $43 million in salaries alone coming into the region, Lakamp said.

Patrick Pierce, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County, said the local community already works hard to integrate the sailors and their families.

That includes the real estate industry, which works to help find housing for new arrivals. Navy kids attend local schools, and the spouses of sailors often need to find work in the community while they are stationed here.

“Events like this help remind our business community that there’s opportunity there,” Pierce said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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