SOS: Save our (senior) ship

Posted: Tuesday, July 25, 2006

KODIAK - One of the first U.S. vessels to penetrate the Northwest Passage and circumnavigate North America may be headed for the scrap heap, sunk as an artificial reef or used by the military for target practice.

But there's a movement to turn the Coast Guard cutter Storis into a museum after it is decommissioned. At nearly 65 years old, the ship known as the "Queen of the Fleet" is the oldest cutter in the Coast Guard.

Jim Loback, a retired Coast Guard serviceman of Fountain Valley, Calif., has started a Save the Storis movement and visited Washington in July to try to convince officials to turn the ship into a museum.

No official date is set to decommission the Storis, although unofficially the ship is expected be retired in the spring of 2007. A report from Coast Guard headquarters is due out in August to set a final date for decommissioning and detail the possible fate of the ship.

"We probably have only one or two more patrols before decommission," said Cmdr. Jim McCauley, who has commanded the Storis for the past two years.

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To become a museum, the Storis must pass requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, according to the Coast Guard.

Keeping the Storis in Kodiak as a museum would be difficult because of high cost and docking space problems, said Mike Pfeffer, director of the Kodiak Maritime Museum board, and Kodiak Island Borough Assemblywoman Sue Jeffrey, the museum board's president.

"We have not yet seriously explored the idea of the Storis as a museum because of the enormous cost," Jeffrey said. "But it still sounds like a good idea to explore, even if it is remote. I don't want to squelch anyone's passion for such an effort."

If the ship isn't turned into a museum, it could be turned into a reef, used as target practice by the U.S. Navy, become scrap metal, sold to another country, be used by other government agencies, or enter the Coast Guard reserve or auxiliary.

Now docked for repairs after coming into port in early July from a mission in the Bering Sea, the 230-foot cutter is responsible for patrols, icebreaking, search and rescue and military readiness.

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