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Navy Times blog: Retired carrier won't work as 'bridge to nowhere'

U.S. Navy photo

As readers may know, some people in Ketchikan still would like a bridge connecting their town to Gravina Island, where a new stretch of blacktop ends forlornly at the shore where the so-called "bridge to nowhere" would have gone had it not become a national emblem for government profligacy.

A letter to the editor recently published in Ketchikan's SitNews proposes towing the soon-to-retire aircraft carrier USS Enterprise into place and "recycling" it as a piece of infrastructure.

"Bring the carrier to Ketchikan, position it across the Narrows from the present AMHS terminal to the airport. Scuttle it and modify each end so it will serve as a bridge. WAH-LAH instant bridge," suggests James Dornblaser of Thorne Bay.

The letter, quite obviously written in jest, also takes note of a few side benefits to the plan, including a new source of electricity from ship's nuclear reactor, plus space for city and borough offices, commercial storefronts, housing for transients from across Southeast, and even a draw for tourists interested in Navy history.

Although the Navy Times blog "Scoop Deck" thinks the aircraft carrier-slash-bridge idea is "better" than the original Gravina Island Bridge plan, it nevertheless torpedoes the new idea. If you have any love for Ketchikan, brace yourself:

  • As a bridge, (the Enterprise) would make it impossible for other vessels to navigate between the two islands. It would, in effect, create an isthmus.  Ships wouldn’t be the only thing affected; sea life would need to dive below the bow to pass. Ironically, the Navy is charged with protecting freedom of navigation.
  • No matter the Enterprise’s fate, it almost certainly will not become a floating power plant, whether it ends up in Alaska, the mothball fleet or on Mars. The Navy’s nuclear energy program is one of the military’s most closely guarded secrets, and it’s extremely unlikely that it would be handed over to a municipal utility organization.
  • Ketchikan, the home of an international airport and around 14,000 people — it’s Alaska’s fifth-largest city — has a miniscule reputation as a tourist destination. No matter how awesome the trinkets, it’s going to be tough to convince people to buy airfare. And could Ketchikan even afford the Enterprise? Its fiscal 2012 budget tops in at just over $102 million, and its construction budget totals around $33.3 million.

To drive home the last rivet in Davy Jones' locker, the blog entry ends with a video clip from an episode of The Simpsons, the one in which a traveling huckster bamboozles Springfield into building a monorail.

Huckster Lyle Lanley, voiced by the late, great Phil Hartman, begins his pitch with an icebreaker: "You know, a town with money is a little like the mule with a spinning wheel; no one knows how he got it, and danged if he knows how to use it."

Contact Scott Woodham at swoodham@alaskadispatch.com