The Navy's projected cost of sinking the retired aircraft carrier USS Oriskany as an artificial reef off the Florida Panhandle has increased from $2.8-million to $12.73-million, owing to delays in getting an Environmental Protection Agency permit.
The carrier, a combat veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, would be the largest ship ever purposely sunk as an artificial reef.
"No matter what you try to do, it's just red tape after red tape after red tape, and it never ever ends," said Paul Redman, president of the Pensacola Charter Boat Association, which envisions the wreck as boon for fishing and diving.
"With all the money we've sunk into this thing, we probably could have built three replicas out of clean steel."
Part of the cost escalation has come from towing the Oriskany back and forth.
The Navy initially set the sinking for last year, then pushed the date back to earlier this year. In anticipation of that schedule, the ship was towed to Pensacola in December from Corpus Christi, Texas, where it had been partly cleaned of contaminants. When the permitting delays continued into summer, the carrier was returned to the Navy Reserve Fleet facility at Beaumont, Texas, to ride out hurricane season. The target date for sinking now is May.
The sticking point is polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, found in electrical cable insulation and elsewhere on the carrier. They are known to cause cancer in animals. Scientists are working on a simulation model to predict what would happen to the PCBs in seawater.