Carrier Yorktown repair cost estimated at more than $81 million
The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. — The estimated cost of repairing the World War II-era aircraft carrier Yorktown at Patriots Point comes in at more than $81 million.
That’s the figure Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette outlined Friday in a long-range plan for the former wartime vessel.
Most of the work on the Yorktown would not occur for at least a decade.
“The plan will change depending on necessity and availability of funds,” Burdette said. “The numbers are guesstimates at best.”
An environmental assessment of the 888-foot ship must be conducted before any repair work can be done to identify what liquids might be in hard-to-reach storage holds, and to determine exactly where they are.
That is expected to be completed by January. The board approved $380,000 on Friday for the study.
“It will show what we have to deal with before we can start repairing the ship,” Burdette said. “You don’t want to start cutting into the side of the ship and have contaminated materials leaking into Charleston Harbor, and you don’t want workers in areas where we don’t know what’s there.”
No money has been budgeted for the necessary repairs.
They include $25 million to install a cofferdam around the Yorktown so about $20 million in hull work can be performed on the ship. Its keel is sitting in 26 feet of mud on the edge of Charleston Harbor, and officials don’t know what condition it is in.
The aging warship, a popular visitor attraction, first docked at Patriots Point in 1975.
Some of the other major costs to repair the Yorktown include $10 million to replace the pier, $6 million to paint the Yorktown’s exterior and $5 million to replace the flight deck.
After the environmental study is completed, Burdette estimated that it will take about $6 million to de-water and clean compartments of whatever chemicals and liquids are found on the ship.
“This is our first step toward the ultimate restoration of the Yorktown,” he said. “Where the money comes from is truly the $80 million question.”
Patriots Point hopes to tap several sources to save the National Historic Landmark, commissioned in 1943 and given the same name of the ship the Japanese sunk in the Battle of Midway in the Pacific in 1942. Like its namesake, the Yorktown also served in the Pacific theater.
The naval and maritime museum looks to develop 36 prime acres around its ticket office for an infusion of cash; it hopes the recently announced $100 million Medal of Honor Museum will entice others to invest nearby in lucrative leasing arrangements; and it looks to embark on a massive fundraising effort in conjunction with the Yorktown Association and the Patriots Point Foundation.
“We are prepared to take on the task when it is handed to us,” Yorktown Association Executive Director Todd Cummins said of the looming fundraising campaign. He oversees a group of about 1,500 Yorktown veterans across the nation.
“They love the ship, and they want to be part of getting her fixed,” he said.
Cummins estimated that fundraising will start small, with hundreds of thousands of dollars at first, then swell to millions as the effort gets under way in earnest.
“It’s immeasurable what the Yorktown means for Charleston, the state, the Southeast and the nation,” he said.
Retired Maj. Gen. Jim Livingston, a Medal of Honor recipient, echoed Cummins’ remarks on the Yorktown’s impact on the community, and he lauded Patriots Point’s current leadership for looking ahead to save the storied vessel.
“It’s an uphill climb, but the leadership out there is capable of stepping up to the plate,” Livingston said.
He added that the fundraising effort to save the Yorktown will not conflict with the move to raise $100 million for the proposed Medal of Honor Museum at Patriots Point.
“I think we are appealing to totally different people,” Livingston said. “The museum will have a national appeal because of the nature of recipients from every state being represented.”
Lastly, Burdette said asking for government aid also will come into play.
The environmental assessment and the subsequent structural analysis of the ship will provide concrete evidence of the ship’s condition that can be provided to federal officials, he said.
“We can go to the Department of Defense and the Secretary of the Navy and perhaps put together a cogent argument that there is a shared responsibility here,” Burdette said. “We can’t just go pounding on doors in Washington and say, ‘The sky is falling,’ and have no evidence of anything. It’s going to take an effort by everybody.”