Monday, September 22, 2003

Sub races: On the Ohio River

Newport pulled slightly ahead in the local submarine races last week, thanks to a wily maneuver by Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky. He persuaded Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who chairs the appropriations conference committee, to include in a defense bill transfer of the decommissioned USS Narwhal to a Northern Kentucky group. Bunning said the Navy has agreed to pay part of the sub's shipping costs to Newport because it would cost $20 million to scrap it..

The bill would transfer ownership of the sub to the Kentucky group. Another area group hit rough currents in June when the Navy said Cincinnati couldn't have the decommissioned USS Cincinnati submarine because its class of sub is still in use. But Cincinnati lawyer Joseph Jaap, a former Navy officer, says his group hasn't given up on persuading the Navy to release the USS Cincinnati.

If both groups think they can raise the millions of dollars it would take to ship a sub here and turn it into an attraction that could draw visitors year after year, more power to them. The more attractions, the better.

The USS Cincinnati is the sentimental favorite, but both subs were nuclear-powered standouts, and the Narwhal has some one-of-kind technology. The Kentucky group wants to anchor the Narwhal just west of the Taylor Southgate Bridge and convert it into a math and science museum featuring the sub's history and a curriculum for fifth-graders.

The reactors would be pulled from the subs before the Navy gives them up, but Jaap says the Navy has never released a nuclear sub. Would they give two to Cincinnati? What are the chances of a double submarine collision on an inland waterway? Cincinnatians may never go down to the river to watch submarine races, but the race to be first to net a sub isn't over here. May the better crew win.

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