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Navy still eyeing Portsmouth hammerhead crane

PORTSMOUTH, Virginia — Though few may know it by name, anybody who's lived in Hampton Roads for even a short time has seen "Hammerhead Crane 110."

It stands about a mile southwest of the Berkley Bridge, a towering fixture at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth since 1940, where it was a big part of the yard's World War II operations.

About a year and a half ago, the Navy said it was thinking about tearing the whole thing down.

Last week, it said it has completed a study to develop basic cost information and other data on two options: dismantling the crane or "mothballing" it, essentially preserving it as a local icon.

A hammerhead like it was torn down at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York in the 1960s.

The men and women who worked at that yard during World War II took the demolition hard, having considered the crane a kind of guardian of the yard, embodying their collective spirit, an archivist at the yard said.

The selection of a "preferred alternative" for the crane in Portsmouth is expected later this year, according to a shipyard statement.

An environmental assessment will follow, which could take a year to 16 months if the Navy finds there would be no significant impact.

If it's determined that the environmental effects would be significant, an "environmental impact statement" leading to a formal record of decision could tack on an additional year.

The process will involve public-information meetings as well as formal consultations with interested parties, including the State Historic Preservation Office.

"The Navy has not determined any specific actions to physically alter the crane, and we will not do so until after completion of the assessments, public meetings and formal consultations," a shipyard release stated.

Robert McCabe, 757-446-2327, robert.mccabe@pilotonline.com

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