NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, FL -- The ongoing battle for a nuclear carrier took another swing in the First Coast's favor today.
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) says the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved over $46 million for dredging at Mayport.
That project, which includes facility upgrades at the base, has been a major hurdle Mayport has faced in the efforts to get a nuclear aircraft carrier moved from Norfolk, Virginia, to Mayport.
Sen. Nelson, along with Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), has been strenuously arguing for the move.
Five carriers are homeported in Norfolk, and that's the entire East Coast carrier fleet.
The argument made by Florida's delegation compares the situation to Pearl Harbor. With all carriers in one location, one act of terrorism could be catastrophic for the nation's armed forces.
The delegation from Virginia disagrees. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has been leading Virginia's argument that moving a carrier is an unnecessary waste of money. He says the Pearl Harbor comparison is invalid, because the world is so different now compared to 1941.
The argument has gone back and forth for months, and the Navy has recommended the move, but President Obama has said he will reevaluate the decision.
"This is a big step towards getting Mayport ready for a nuclear carrier, a move that will help protect our Atlantic naval operations," says Sen. Nelson.
Since the USS John F. Kennedy was decommissioned two years ago, Mayport has been without a carrier, and the Kennedy was the last of the conventionally-powered carriers in the fleet.
Nuclear carriers are larger, need deeper water, and carry with them extra security procedures and requirements that Mayport does not currently meet.
The upgrade passed a House Committee last month, and now that it has passed the Senate Committee, the full Senate and House must vote on their versions of the bill, which is expected to begin next week.
Count on First Coast News for complete coverage of the Mayport carrier decision.
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