Orleck bound for Lake Charles?
The fate of the USS Orleck, the destroyer built in Orange and served in World War World II, Vietnam and Korea, is once again in question.
Members of the Southeast Texas War Memorial and Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit group responsible for the ship’s upkeep, have had ongoing discussion with the city of Lake Charles about docking the vessel there. However, the Lake Charles Yacht Club, near the proposed berth, has already expressed some opposition to the idea.
In a meeting Wednesday, Lake Charles City Councilman Marshall Simien Jr. listed a number of provisions the foundation must agree to in order to see the ship moved.
After hearing the conditions, the foundation agreed. “We are ready to rock and roll and give the Orleck a grand welcoming,” Ed Martin told a Lake Charles television station.
The proposed permanent location is near the North Beach area, just south of the Yacht Club and the railroad line. Yacht club members say the ship would obstruct navigation.
“Our location causes grave concern for the security of our members and their boats, the anchoring of the Orleck along a major interstate and along a commercial waterway and the viability of the Orleck project,” the club’s Jimmy Berry told the station. “We wish the Orleck supporters much success in their search for a more secure location.”
The issue will be sent back to Lake Charles’ Downtown Development Authority for more discussion.
“I think it needs to go back to the DDA with these types of stipulations that this is what we are looking for before it comes back to us,” said Simien.
The ship is the only Gearing Class destroyer to return to its birthplace for use as a museum.
The foundation bought the ship from the Turkish military in 2000 using a $250,000 loan.
The ship, launched in Orange in 1945, reappeared on the Southeast Texas horizon on Aug. 12, 2000. It was pulled through choppy waters a few miles west of the Sabine Pass lighthouse by the Russian tug Ahktiar.
It traveled up through Port Arthur waterways to a temporary berth at Ochiltree-Inman Park in Orange.
Negotiations to move it to the city of Orange’s Sabine River recreation area, or to the Port of Orange, moved slowly or stalled as the ship took on small tours and underwent repairs.
In 2005, Hurricane Rita’s powerful winds broke the ship loose. Before Beacon took the ship in, it was housed for a time at Signal International. At present it is berthed on the Sabine River at the east end of Green Avenue.
Following are the provisions outlined by Simien:
• Objective criteria to be created that would allow the city meet certain operational standards and other criteria such as maintenance of the lease premises and other factors.
• An indemnity clause to protect the city from all liability with respect to damages occurring both on and off the premises.
• Adequate liability insurance to ensure the city from all liability.
• Approval by the city and the Downtown Development Authority with respect to a site plan indicating the location of the vessel and access to a public road and a business plan regarding operation and long term maintenance.
• A long term salvage provision that obligates a salvage yard to accept the vessel for scrap at termination of the lease from the city or 365 days from arrival from the temporary site if it is not permanently awarded an alternate location after those 365 days.
• That the temporary site shall be for mooring and maintenance only of the vessel of the period only to not exceed 365 days from the date of arrival and may not be available for use or occupying by the general public.
• Obtain a performance bond to secure the cost of removal of the vessel at termination of lease or expiration of 365 day grace period.
• Voter approval if required by law. The city is still waiting on a decision by the State Attorney General’s Office.
• Approval of a location and dredging operation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and all state and federal agencies having jurisdiction over such activity.
• Such other provisions, which we can’t think of right now that we may need to protect the city and its residents.