EVERETT — The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz won’t be returning to Naval Station Everett after an extended overhaul in Bremerton.
It could be years before another major military ship comes to town.
The Navy plans to keep the Nimitz at Naval Base Kitsap, where it has been undergoing maintenance since early 2015. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s office received word of the change this week in a letter from Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer.
“Naval Station Everett remains an important part of the Navy’s long-term planning and we are committed to its continued use,” Spencer wrote.
The Navy made the Nimitz decision to improve efficiency and minimize impacts to sailors and employees, the letter states.
A separate planning document the Navy released Friday outlines systemwide changes in greater detail. As described by Amanda Munger, Larsen’s communications director, that plan has no new aircraft carrier coming to Everett over the next five years.
Larsen released a statement on Friday:
“The Navy broke a commitment to the community,” he said. “Today, I spoke with Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer to express my frustration with this decision. I asked Secretary Spencer to come visit Snohomish County and he has committed to coming to explain how the Navy came to its decision and defend the Navy’s position to the community.”
Larsen’s 2nd Congressional District includes Everett, and he’s a member of the House Armed Services Committee. He said he’s working with local leaders to bring other military assets to the naval station.
Possibilities include a different aircraft carrier and other ships from the Navy or the U.S. Coast Guard.
Everett has been lobbying to keep a carrier in town. In June, Mayor Cassie Franklin visited the Pentagon, where she had the chance to speak with Defense Department representatives.
“We were disappointed to learn today that the Navy will not be returning the Nimitz to Naval Station Everett, despite previous commitments,” Franklin and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said in a joint statement Friday afternoon. “We understand that the U.S. military must constantly change and adapt to the threats we face as a nation. We believe strongly that Naval Station Everett continues to be a strategic asset for our country.”
Everett has been “a Navy town” for 24 years and has supported military service members and their families for much longer, they said. Franklin and Somers promised to continue that support.
The USS Nimitz is the Navy’s oldest aircraft carrier — in service for 43 years. It’s the lead ship in a class of nine others.
Naval Station Everett is the newest base built by the Navy. It opened in 1994. Three years later, the USS Abraham Lincoln arrived. The Lincoln moved in 2011 to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. The Everett Silvertips mascot, Lincoln, still wears a jersey with the carrier’s number, 72.
The Nimitz arrived in 2012 but left for maintenance less than three years later. The ship was expected to return after 16 months, but it’s been homeported at Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton for more than 3½ years.
Naval Station Everett employs about 3,000 people, making it the fourth-largest employer in Snohomish County. The base has been home to six warships, called destroyers, each of which have a crew of about 300 people. Those numbers don’t account for families, many of whom move to the area.
Each aircraft carrier has around 3,000 sailors, with the potential to double the number of people who work at the base.
Naval Station Everett had received no official notification involving the Nimitz as of Friday afternoon, public affairs officer Kristin Ching said.
“We have not heard any decision from the Navy as to the future homeporting of the USS Nimitz,” Ching said. “We would not be able to confirm or comment on what is coming out of an unofficial, non-Navy source.”
Herald writer Kari Bray contributed to this report.