The U.S. Navy is expected to begin dismantling the Bonhomme Richard in two months, but some members of Congress are advocating sinking the ship in waters off the coast of Florida, where it could become an artificial reef.

On April 15, the Navy will begin dismantling the amphibious assault ship that burned for four days last year at its base in San Diego, according to a Navy report cited by the Navy Times.

Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar announced in a February 18 tweet that she and other members of Congress are asking the Navy to change its plans and sink the ship in the waters off the coast of Florida, where it could be used as an artificial reef.

Today @RepDarrenSoto and I led a bipartisan initiative urging @USNavy to consider prepping and sinking the USS Bonhomme Richard off the coast of Florida, where an artificial reef could provide an environmental and economic benefit to the local community and the state.

– Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (@RepMariaSalazar) February 18, 2021

“Ecological and economic benefits

A letter from 22 members of Congress to Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Harker surfaced on Twitter. In the letter, which is also available on the congressman’s official website, the congressmen refer to an estimate that dismantling the ship would cost $30 million. It would be cheaper to sink the ship in Florida waters, where the burned vessel could provide “environmental and economic benefits” to the community, the letter says.

The authors recalled that several unarmed military vessels had already been sunk off the Florida coast. They mentioned the USS Spiegel, the USS Oriskany and the USS Mindanao. “These vessels immediately created an ecosystem for fish and wildlife,” the letter said.

Artificial reef to boost tourism

In their letter, members of Congress argue that Florida’s tourism industry would benefit from artificial reefs.

According to them, Florida is a year-round tourist destination for people who come “to fish and dive in our waters, eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels and spend money in our small stores.” The artificial reefs have created “a whole new recreational destination for anglers,” they added.

The four-day fire is still under investigation.

The Navy Times quoted Rear Admiral Eric Ver Hage as saying that repairs to the USS Bonhomme Richard would cost $3.2 billion and take five to seven years.

According to the Navy Times, it cost more than $1 billion to convert the amphibious assault ship into a hospital ship. The organization noted that the cause of the fire that destroyed 60 percent of the USS Bonhomme Richard is still under investigation.

In her tweet, Assemblyman Salazar credited Assemblyman Darren Soto with leading a “bipartisan movement” to sink the ship off the coast of Florida.

The following members of Congress joined Salazar and Soto in signing a letter to the Acting Secretary of the Navy: Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Cat Cammack, Charlie Christ, Val Demings, Mario Diaz-Balart, Neil P. Dunn, Scott Franklin, Matt Gaetz, Carlos A. Gimenez, Elsie L. Hastings, Al Lawson, Brian Mast, Stephanie Murphy, Bill Posey, John Rutherford, W.

Gregory Steib, Michael Waltz, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Daniel Webster.

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