Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Texas: Auction of the USS Cabot/Dedalo (CVL 28)
Agency: Department of Justice, Coast Guard
Criteria for Council Involvement:
- This undertaking may 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).
In the last few months, the Department of Justice, acting on behalf of the US Coast Guard, took legal action to seize the USS Cabot so that it may be auctioned to satisfy the debts previously incurred by the Coast Guard in performing emergency repairs. A private receiver who is associated with the USS Cabot Association, Inc. has been appointed by the Court and has taken steps to stabilize deterioration and to inventory the ship’s significant historic features.
Several interested parties are developing plans to purchase the Cabot and exhibit her in southern Florida. However, no Federal agency has clearly accepted the responsibility to conduct a Section 106 review for the upcoming auction, and the parties interested in the history of the Cabot are concerned that the sale of the ship without adequate preservation restrictions could result in her scrapping. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Naval Ships Association have recently sent letters encouraging the Department of Justice and the Coast Guard to conduct a Section 106 review prior to the auction, scheduled for the next two months.
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 to 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. This suit was recently dismissed.
The most recent developments involving the Cabot illustrate a problem that the Council continues to encounter: Federal agencies not recognizing that seizure and sale of property is subject to Section 106 review. A previous noteworthy case involved the sale of Shelburne Glebe, an 18th-century Virginia house, 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 with a restrictive covenant. More than $1 million more than the first sale was netted in the second.)
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
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