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Sen. Marco Rubio joins lawmakers' call to use USS Bonhomme Richard as a reef

The Navy plans to dismantle the ship after it burned for days last year at Naval Base San Diego.
Credit: AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File
In this July 12, 2020, file photo, smoke rises from the USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, after an explosion and fire on board the ship at Naval Base San Diego.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio joins the list of Florida lawmakers asking the Navy to use the heavily damaged USS Bonhomme Richard as an artificial reef off the coast.

He published a letter to the Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Harker on Monday, requesting the ship be used as a reef as "a fitting way to honor the brave sailors who served." Plus, Rubio wrote, it would be a unique attraction for divers.

The 844-foot-long Wasp-class amphibious assault ship burned for almost five days last summer following an explosion while stationed at Naval Base San Diego.

A sailor was investigated for arson, but no charges were filed. Restoring the ship to its original form with 60 percent of it sustaining damage ranged from $2.5 billion to $3.2 billion, according to the U.S. Naval Institute News. It reports decommission and scrapping the ship would cost about $30 million.

More than 60 sailors and civilian firefighters were hurt.

"As of October 2020, the FWC has masterfully created more than 3,700 artificial reefs in Florida’s waters using best practices and science to sink vessels and other structures safely, and in a manner of the utmost regard for wildlife and the environment," Rubio wrote, in part. "These reefs are ecologically and economically important. 

"Artificial reefs serve as habitat for native reef fish and help maintain fish stocks, supporting Florida’s robust tourism and recreational fishing economies."

   

Rubio, R-Florida, like the slate of bipartisan lawmakers who are asking for the ship, says using the wreckage as a reef would cost less than the $30 million price tag.

"The State of Florida has indicated that utilizing the vessel as an artificial reef would be far less costly and time consuming, and would certainly be much more economically and ecologically productive," the senator wrote.

Lawmakers earlier argued the USS Bonhomme Richard wouldn't be the first ship used as an artificial reef off the Florida coast, with other ships at locations near Daytona Beach, Key Largo and Pensacola. 

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