U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Micah P. Blechner
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A bill further funding the Navy's planned move of a nuclear aircraft carrier from Virginia to Mayport overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives today.
Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) announced the passage of HR 2055 -- the Fiscal Year 2012 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, which contains infrastructure and planning and design funds for nuclearization projects at Naval Station Mayport.
The Naval station has not been homeport to an aircraft carrier since the 2007 decommissioning of the USS John F. Kennedy, which was a conventionally powered carrier. The remaining 10 carriers in the U.S. fleet are all nuclear, and all five of the carriers on the East Coast are homeported in Virginia.
Crenshaw and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) have led the charge to get one carrier moved to Mayport, citing national security as the primary reason.
Virginia has fought back, despite Mayport having the support of the Navy on the matter, so each legislative step is a victory for northeast Florida.
"Mayport nuclearization funds move forward today with a strong boost from the full U.S. House of Representatives," said Crenshaw, a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. "Next stop is the United States Senate where I fully expect the Armed Services Committee and Appropriations Committee to agree with top defense and military personnel and approve the funds."
A lot of work must take place before a carrier can again call Mayport home. the carriers newer than the USS John F. Kennedy are larger and require more channel depth, meaning Mayport must be dredged, and the nuclear fuel requires a significant upgrade to the wharf at Mayport.
Funds for both projects have been included in congressional bills since 2010, according to Crenshaw, totalling over $77 million.
HR 2055, which passed the House 411-5, includes nearly $15 million for transportation infrastructure improvements at Mayport and "funding, as, necessary," for future projects such as the maintenance wharf and controlled industrial facility.
If everything is fast-tracked, the earliest Mayport could see a carrier is estimated to be 2016, though it could be as late as 2019.
NAS Jacksonville also benefits from the bill's passage. Funds for the P-8 Poseidon and Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Unmanned Aerial System facilities at NAS Jax were included in the bill.
The P-8A training facility receives nearly $26 million, and just over $6 million will go to hangar upgrades for the replacement of the P-3 Orion.
About $4.5 million is for Operator Center for the BAMS Unmanned Aerial System.
First Coast News