Work will begin in October on enclosing the starboard bow of the ship in a small cofferdam.
A feasibility/cost study will be performed at that time to determine how much money will be needed to repair the entire hull in this way.
The commission then has the option of enclosing the entire ship in four walls, like work that was done on the USS Alabama in Mobile, Ala., in 2002. Or workers could repair the steel hull in 40-foot sections, as money becomes available from the group's fundraising campaign.
After repairs are made around the “wind/water line,” where wave movement and wind cause the most deterioration, Bragg said he would like to float the ship and paint the lowermost portions of the hull, using new underwater “paint pelting” technology and underwater welding. Some steel plates may need replacement, and the work calls for the removal of about 1.5 million gallons of contaminated oily water from the ship's tanks.
Bragg said pumping the 36,000-ton, 729-foot steel ship out of the mud and using tugs to move it almost 400 miles to Virginia would cost about $30 million. He expects the cofferdam solution to cost $12 million to $14 million.