Friday, April 23, 2004 4:40 PM
Folks,
Today I went aboard the Gage in Portsmouth, VA with a team of engineers.  They found the boilers, turbines and engineering plant to be in remarkable shape.  All agreed that the Gage is the proverbial low-mileage rusty old car found in a barn.  From an engineering standpoint they believe that the vessel is in good shape & clearly savable.  They mentioned that some of the current navy steam vessels don't look as good in the engineering spaces.  Much thanks to Larry Stone and his team for looking the vessel over.
 
That was good news.  Then, when I returned home this afternoon, the following message (below) from Pete Wagner at MARAD was waiting for me.  I think it's self-explanatory.  Much thanks goes to the lawyers -- Kate Myers of the National Trust & the APA Project's Andrea Ferster -- for a job Well Done....
Peter 

Peter,
 
MARAD just today publicly announced the following:

As of April 2004, the Navy SINKEX disposal of the GAGE, scheduled for the fall of 2004, has been cancelled.  Disposition of the vessel is pending a historic assessment review.

The above statement is posted on the MARAD public website here:  http://www.marad.dot.gov/nhpa/GAGE.htm  

We will be providing a more detailed clarification on GAGE's status next week.

Regards,

Pete

Peter Wagner
Ship Operations Specialist
Division of Reserve Fleet
202-366-6129


From: Peter Stoudt
Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2004 7:00 PM
To: Peter Wagner
Subject: Gage Status

Pete,
We need your help.  A couple days ago I received a copy of a letter dated 1 April 2004 from William Schubert, Maritime Administrator, to Mr. Jack Hersh of San Carlos, CA regarding a letter Mr. Hersh had written to President George W. Bush in regard to the Gage.  In his letter to President Bush, Mr. Hersh, a former Gage crew member, had asked that, as the last originally configured APA, the Gage not be destroyed as a Sinkex target and that the APA Historical Preservation Project should be given time to develop a preservation effort.  The White House had forwarded his request to the Maritime Administration and Captain Schubert responded.
 
In his letter to Mr. Hersh, Captain Schubert stated that "MARAD has identified the Gage, the last originally reconfigured [sic] Auxiliary Personnel Attack Vessel, as a possible candidate for being listed on the National Register of Historic Places."  As the organization that has worked, in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to educate the public and MARAD about the historical significance of the Gage, we are certainly pleased to hear this.
 
However, Mr. Schubert's letter goes on to state, "This, however,  may be only the first step toward developing a viable preservation effort.  Being on the National Register does not mean that the ship will be retained in the Government's custody indefinitely.  Timely, substantive actions by entities such as APAHPP [APA Historical Preservation Project] is necessary for a successful preservation effort. [para.] Please be advised that although your letter references APAHPP's interest in preserving the Gage,MARAD has not received a donation request from APAHPP."
 
I was greatly surprised by this last statement.  Last year, after notifying MARAD of the historic significance of the Gage, we began to study the feasibility of a preservation project for the Gage and work on a plan for such a project.  Just weeks after sharing our findings with MARAD we were informed that the Gage had been selected as a Sinkex target.  We were alarmed and contacted MARAD to ask that the Gage -- as the sole surviving originally configured attack transport from WWII -- be spared and that another unhistoric vessel be chosen for the Sinkex in its place.  We were turned down by MARAD and the Navy and informed that the vessel would be used as a Sinkex target.  Thus we contacted the National Trust for Historic Preservation to ask for their assistance in preventing the disposal of the Gage under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.  As you know, the Trust wrote MARAD about the eligibility of the Gage for the National Register of Historic Places and that it was a violation of federal law under the National Historic Preservation Act (and other relevant federal law) to dispose of the vessel without a Section 106 Review.  The APA Project attorney, Andrea Ferster, also wrote to MARAD on the same grounds.
 
After this, although the ship had been towed to Portsmouth to prep her for the Sinkex, we were informed by MARAD, through our attorney and the National Trust, that the vessel would not be destroyed until the matter was resolved.  We've never heard another official word.  We know that during that time MARAD conducted an evaluation of the vessel and we even received a copy of a hull survey that was performed (after we requested it).  We assumed that after this evaluative process MARAD would inform us whether they planned to continue with their Sinkex plans (which we would have then challenged in court) or whether they would not destroy the vessel and allow the NHPA Section 106 process to move forward -- and thus give us an opportunity to develop a preservation effort.  To my knowledge we have not heard anything else and have not been officially notified about the current status of the Gage and neither has the National Trust or our attorney Andrea Ferster.
 
Please understand, we would like nothing better than to have already have submitted the donation request that Captain Schubert explained to Mr. Hersh.  We have already lost more than a year of time in our effort to establish a preservation effort for this historic vessel because we have had to confront MARAD and the Navy over the vessel's scheduled Sinkex destruction.  We have worked to educate folks about her historic significance and believe that we have acted honorably and logically as we have worked our way through both legal and evaluative processes in order to determine if we can indeed establish a preservation project.  But it seems clear that it would have made little sense for us to have made a donation request and started going through the process of developing a business plan when, as far as we knew, the vessel was still officially scheduled to be destroyed as a Sinkex target and at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in the year 2004.  We have never been officially notified by MARAD that their plan to use the Gage as a Sinkex target had been changed.  We have never been notified that another vessel had been selected.
 
We understand that MARAD cannot keep a vessel indefinitely; we wouldn't expect that they could -- we are reasonable.  However, if the ship is not to be destroyed in 2004 and will undergo a NHPA Section 106 Review, and thus probably be returned to the fleet, this is very important information for the APA Historical Preservation Project, our attorney Andrea Ferster, and the National Trust to have.  We are not asking for some statement that the ship will be kept indefinitely or for several years; however, it would be helpful to have a statement that the vessel will not be destroyed in the Sinkex this year and will be returned to the fleet for a reasonable length of time.  This will give us an opportunity to develop a preservation effort and submit the donation request and business plan as suggested by Captain Schubert.  Without any official information from MARAD on this matter we have no idea on whether or not we can move ahead to preserve this historic vessel.  We have just been waiting to hear from MARAD.  The last official information we received was that the vessel would not be destroyed or degraded while MARAD evaluated our possible legal action; that was months ago.  If MARAD could make some official statement to us regarding the current status of the Gage, we will be able to move forward in accordance with Captain Schubert's letter. 
 
Thank you for helping us on this important matter.  I look forward to hearing from you.  I will be aboard the Gage tomorrow in Portsmouth conducting a survey with Larry Stone and his team of engineers, but I will be home tomorrow night and back in my office Monday.
 
Best Wishes,
Peter
 
Peter Stoudt
APA Historical Preservation Project
2278 Chapel Spring Lane
Free Union, VA 22940-1922
(434) 977-5897
 
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