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Sen. Chuck Schumer Seeks Federal Funds to Save USS The Sullivans

buffalo fire at uss the sullivans
Courtesy Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park

Published Apr 18, 2022 10:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Monday, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer visited the site of the decommissioned destroyer USS The Sullivans (DD-537) in Buffalo, New York, promising federal assistance for the challenging task of refloating and repairing her. 

The museum ship USS The Sullivans experienced flooding on her starboard side and took on a heavy list last Wednesday, according to her caretaker, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park. The breach is located aft on the starboard side, the park's director told media. 

Dive inspections and emergency dewatering efforts were under way through the weekend, with assistance from local fire and rescue agencies. According to park officials, the vessel's condition is stable, and she is resting on the bottom of the riverbed with a pronounced starboard list. 

The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that she has taken on about three million gallons of water; plans are under way to dewater and refloat her. According to the park, the operation will use a large number of smaller pumps to dewater many compartments at the same time, minimizing uneven loading and stress on the hull. 

Pollution prevention efforts are also in full swing. Responders have been pumping out fuel, lubricants and oily water from inside the vessel in order to prevent the spread of contaminants into Lake Erie.

"I’m fully committed to having all hands on deck in getting the maximum amount of federal dollars we have," said Schumer at a news conference Monday. "While the cleanup efforts have already begun, this is going to be an expense, and it shouldn’t be the city or county or the park that have to pay for this."

Schumer pointed to the $1 billion Great Lakes Restoration Fund and the $500 million National Maritime Heritage Grant Program as possible federal funding sources for the cleanup effort. He also noted that as senate majority leader, he has "clout with earmarks" that he can use to direct money to the project.

Like many WWII-era museum ships, USS The Sullivans faces maintenance challenges, including thinning of her hull plating. A restoration effort to reinforce her hull with epoxy along the waterline began last year, and it was slated to continue this spring; however, a permanent, long-term fix could take more expense and effort.