Closure Date Announced For Naval Station Pascagoula - - The News for South Mississippi

Closure Date Announced For Naval Station Pascagoula

The U.S. Navy on Tuesday set an official closing date for Naval Station Pascagoula. The homeport will end all Navy activities on November 15.

The homeport was targeted for closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission last year. Now Jackson County leaders are looking to build a new future on Singing River Island.

"The number of the ships were diminishing, the people were diminishing, and the missions were diminishing," Den Knecht said.

Knecht and others with the Local Redevelopment Authority knew this day would come. After 13 years, the Defense Department will close Naval Station Pascagoula for good.

"While we are disappointed, I do not think anybody was surprised by that."

Knecht and other leaders waged more than one battle over the years to keep the Homeport open. The federal base closure commission made its final decision just days before Hurricane Katrina hit. After the storm, leaders asked for reconsideration to no avail.

Jackson County Supervisor Manly Barton wishes BRAC would have listened.

"I still believe not having a Naval presence in the Gulf at all is not good for the country."

Now elected and community leaders in Jackson County are looking to find a way of turning bad news into good. In January, the Navy turned control of Singing River Island to the state. Jackson County is now marking the 400 acres where the homeport sits.

"Find those agencies and business that the location and security is important," Knecht said.

"It would be nice if the Coast Guard, and NOAA, and some of the other people step in and say, 'We would like to lease the docking.' And at least get the facility in some military use."

Northrop Grumman located nearby is another possible customer.

"What we wanted to do is have business and industry that will support other federal facilities and businesses."

Knecht is optimistic the homeport closure will actually open more doors in Jackson County.

"In another couple of years, we will be at a point that it will be providing more economic benefit to the area, more than the Naval station did."

At it's peak of operation, Naval Station Pascagoula had a $110 million impact on the local economy.

Before Katrina there were 963 military and civilian jobs at the homeport, now there are just 149 positions there. Three ships the Groves, the Hall and Gates were shifted to Mayport, Florida.

By Patrice Clark

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