07 August 2011

Politicians converge on Mare Island as first ship recycling project wraps:

Wasting no time in familiarizing himself with his new constituency, Rep. Mike Thompson said Friday he's prepared to help keep the ship dismantling work in Vallejo, after taking a tour of the Mare Island dry docks.

The St. Helena Democrat is expected to represent Vallejo and Benicia as well as Napa County, as he has been, if the new congressional districts become official in about 18 months. He said he looks forward to working with current Rep. George Miller until then.

Meanwhile, both men were at the dry docks Friday -- Miller, for an event celebrating the removal of the last piece of the Solon Turman, while Thompson was there more for a get-reacquainted tour.

"We got out of session a little early, so I had some time and thought it would be a good idea to get a tour of the area," Thompson said. "But, Vallejo's not new to me and I hope I'm not new to Vallejo."

The Solano Turman, a 1960s cargo ship that had resided in the Suisun Bay Reserve "mothball" fleet, was the first government contract ship dismantling on Mare Island. Dismantler Allied Defense Recycling, after years of effort, opened for business at the beginning of the year.

Miller is credited by Allied Defense Recycling officials with smoothing negotiations between it and local and state regulatory agencies as the company sought to open.

Thompson represented the city as its state senator about 20 years ago.

City Councilwoman Erin Hannigan, who arranged Friday's tour, said she came away from it feeling like Thompson "gets it."

"I told him about the need for a level playing field in the contracting process for the ship dismantling," Hannigan said. "And that some of the ships (are prepared at the Mare Island dry docks) for shipping to Texas, when it would be better for the environment and less expensive for the taxpayer, for all the work to be done here."

Thompson said he will do what he can to work with city, state and federal officials to ensure that as much of the work as possible "stays in Vallejo."

"Erin is focused on this issue, and recognizes the irrational thought process of taking these ships to Texas," Thompson said. "I think something can be done to evaluate this process and I'm on board for working on that."

Source: Times Herald Online. By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen. 6 August 2011

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