Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Texas: Auction of the USS Cabot/Dedalo
Agencies: Department of Justice and Coast Guard
Criteria for Council Involvement:
- This undertaking will result in the scrapping of an National Historic Landmark vessel, the last of this class of ship (Criterion 1).
- Federal agencies that have been involved have not recognized that this undertaking is subject to Section 106 review (Criterion 2).
- There has been substantial controversy and litigation, and future litigation may be possible (Criterion 3).
On August 31, 1999, with auction of the USS Cabot fast approaching, preservation of the vessel was designated an “Official Project” by Save America’s Treasuresa public/private partnership between the White House Millennium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Although such designation does not provide direct funding, it is the first step in gaining eligibility for future grants through the Save America’s Treasures program and provides national recognition.
(Photo courtesy of Gerard Mittelstaedt)
Shortly thereafter, the parties interested in obtaining the Cabot for scrapping filed a motion with the U.S. District Court to clarify the applicability of the National Historic Preservation Act to the proposed Justice Department auction to satisfy the lien against the vessel by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Court dismissed the motion without a written opinion, and the auction was subsequently held on September 9, 1999. The parties interested in preserving the Cabot were unable to outbid the Global Maritime Group, and currently it appears that the Cabot will be scrapped for the value of its metal.
The USS Cabot, a National Historic Landmark, is the only surviving light aircraft carrier in the United States. It boasts a distinguished service record from World War II and Korea. The vessel later served as the flagship of the Spanish Navy from 1967 until 1989 when it was turned over by Spain to the USS Cabot/Dedalo Foundation, Inc., based in New Orleans.
This foundation planned to exhibit the Cabot as a museum but ran out of money. The Cabot was docked for seven years in the Port of New Orleans where it ran up substantial wharfage fees and incurred damage from sideswipes by other vessels. In July 1997, the Coast Guard intervened and performed emergency repairs, remediated hazardous liquids, and relocated the Cabot to the Violet Dock down river from New Orleans.
Prior to the expiration of the Coast Guard’s contract to dock the ship at Violet, the USS Cabot/Dedalo Foundation, Inc., moved her to Port Isabel, Texas, pursuant to a dead vessel tow plan reviewed by the Coast Guard. She has since been moved to Brownsville, Texas, where initial scrapping activities occurred in an effort to offset the debts incurred by the ship.
The USS Cabot Association, Inc., an association of approximately 1200 individuals most of whom served on the Cabot during WWII or the Korean conflict, contacted the Coast Guard and requested it to conduct a Section 106 review in conjunction with its review of the dead tow plan. Following the Coast Guard’s determination that this activity did not constitute an undertaking subject to Section 106 review, the USS Cabot Association, Inc., filed suit to compel a Section 106 review; however, this suit was dismissed.
Earlier this year, the Department of Justice, acting on behalf of the US Coast Guard, took legal action to seize the USS Cabot so that it could be auctioned to satisfy the debts previously incurred by the Coast Guard in performing emergency repairs. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Naval Ships Association sent letters encouraging the Department of Justice and the Coast Guard to conduct a Section 106 review for the auction, however, neither Federal accepted that responsibility.
The Cabot case illustrates a problem that the Council continues to encounter: Federal agencies often do not recognize that seizure and sale of property is subject to Section 106 review.
A noteworthy example of the problem involved the sale of Shelburne Glebe, an 18th-century Virginia estate that was seized by the U.S. Marshalls Service in 1986. In that case, there also was initial reluctance on the part of the Federal agency to recognize that the seizure and auction required compliance with Section 106. (Eventually, the Marshalls Service rescinded one sale and offered the property for sale again, but with a restrictive covenant.
The second sale netted at least $1 million more than the first.) Auction of the Cabot also raises other questions regarding the appropriate role of the State Historic Preservation Officer in the treatment of a movable historic property that has no direct association with the State in which it is temporarily located.
Staff contact: Lee Keatinge
July 1999 report on this case
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