Monday, May 5, 2014

U.S. Coast Guard FOIA release - Parts 3 & 4

The first few pages (page 1-12, originally 25-37 of the CG PDF) of this section are the GSA Auction documentation for the ship’s listed sale, as well as additional information and correspondence between the concerned ship recycling expert, the Coast Guard, Christopher Rollins of EPA Region IX in San Francisco and the GSA. The points about the legality of the sale and export related on suspected PCB contamination based on the ship’s age and construction are important reads.

Page 13 (originally 37) is a CG response to Sen. Mark Begich of AK regarding the ship’s
retention for museum use.

Page 14 (originally 38) - A brief Q&A format for questions the CG received from various parties re: the National Register of Historic Places and a question regarding PCBs. The CG was asked by John Rayfield of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee why STORIS was listed on the National Register when the CG intended to dispose of the ship. The CG explained that the STORIS Museum nominated the ship and otherwise claims that they (CG) complied with the National Environmental Protection Act of 1969 and Nat'l Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (16 U.S.C. 470). I have an inquiry out to determine whether the CG truly complied with the NHPA. If a federal property is found to be eligible for the National Register, the agency is responsible for nominating it through Section 110 of the NHPA (16 U.S.C. 470h-2), which can be found here: Section 110 of the NHPA.  The CG did not nominate BRAMBLE as a result of her designation as NR-eligible prior to decommissioning in 2003 (I did that in early 2012). The Coast Guard did not nominate ACUSHNET or STORIS when they were designated eligible (again, I nominated STORIS in late 2012). The CG did not comply with federal law as they did not nominate STORIS for the Register, nor did they take steps to encourage the ship’s preservation since she had a national level of significance. Passively storing the ship at the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet, in my opinion, does not qualify as taking active steps to ensure the ship’s preservation as a nationally significant historic vessel. I am working to determine whether the same Historic American Engineering Record that mitigated the disposal of the ship for Section 106 of the NHPA also releases the CG from the responsibility of nominating the ship for the National Register. The CG also again explicitly claims that STORIS was free of PCBs, with only asbestos and lead paint on board.

Pages 15-19 (originally 39-43) include correspondence between the Coast Guard and Bob King, a legislative aide to Sen. Mark Begich. These range from memos sent during the STORIS tow to discussions prior to the export. His information regarding the STORIS Museum was incorrect as the Museum and Last Patrol had provided the necessary deposit to bid on the ship. Since the auction was winding down without the reserve price having been met, the Museum did not bid because it was the understanding that the ship would not be sold if the reserve price was not met. It was believed the ship would be relisted. Instead, less than 12 hours after the auction closed without the reserve having been met, the ship was awarded to U.S. Metals Recovery of San Diego. The information and rationale behind that quick disposition will have to be sought in the outstanding GSA FOIA due to be released in June.

There are some alarming comments made by Mr. King.  There is a comment that validates our proposal to move STORIS to Ohio rather than Alaska. As the project became protracted, it was becoming more and more obvious that while there was grass-roots enthusiasm from STORIS veterans and average Joe and Mary Resident of Alaska to bring the ship home, there was no interest from the politicians and officials. There were serious concerns from our perspective about the politicians in Juneau and that apparently was well founded, even up to the state level. Among the correspondence between the Coast Guard and King, it is claimed that the GSA offered STORIS for free to the state (which had to be Alaska at that point) and the donation offer was turned down. If that was the case, we could have gone to the State of Ohio to seek donation of the ship. We were not given the option. This will either be borne out in the GSA correspondence that I am told will be coming in late June or I’ll have to FOIA the state government of Alaska for related documentation. It’s an upsetting revelation, however, and the first I’ve heard of such a proposal.

I also don’t appreciate the following from June 28, 2013 from King to the Coast Guard, the day after the ship was sold.

“…You know I wasn’t going to stick you guys with having to hold onto this old crate any longer, especially when everybody else is trying to whack away at your budget, but I’m sure not happy that piece of history like this is going to be melted down and probably sold to China. Forgive me for venting on a stormy Friday.

Asked the scrap yard if we can have the bell so I can donate it to the Buoy Deck (Bar in Juneau).” 

Old crate? Really? Asked for the bell? That belongs to the Coast Guard, which is legally obligated through the Memorandum of Agreement with the Alaska State Historic Preservation Office from 2006 to protect and preserve key artifacts from the ship. This would include the bell, builder’s plate and Northwest Passage plaque. Those items have yet to be positively located and moved to a proper display location to honor the ship and her crews since the Federal Government couldn’t see fit to allow us to save the entire ship. A proper display location would be a true museum facility and not a bar in Juneau. And expressing a desire to negotiate directly with the scrapper, when we were in the process of scrambling to do so ourselves? So much for being in the ship’s corner and assisting the nonprofits in trying to save the ship.

Speaking for myself and myself alone, I seriously question the integrity of the so-called assistance we were seeking from Begich’s office with this kind of insider discussion.

Pages 20-22 (originally pp. 44-46) – There is additional discussion about PCBs >50ppm not being on board, or in enclosed compartments. Again, the CG is emphatic that there were no PCBs on board above 50 ppm. Also the CG disputes the statement from an electrician’s mate, a member of the last crew, about the presence of undocumented wiring that we believe contained PCB-containing materials. The CG maintains the wiring would not contain PCBs.

This section ends with correspondence on how the Coast Guard is going to respond (and coordinate with other complicit agencies such as GSA, MARAD and EPA) related to the ship’s sale and export. This includes the environmental section within the Coast Guard and once again their flimsy documentation claiming the ship was free of regulated PCBs. This was prompted by an email I sent on the Monday following the STORIS’ departure from Suisun Bay to Attorney Franklin Parker at MARAD, Attorney Avi Garbow at EPA and RADM Frederick Kenney at the Coast Guard. This email is Part 4 of the CG Release (click here), separated because they left in information that needed to be redacted.

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