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Nimitz Not Returning To San Diego

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, which departed San Diego earlier this week, won't be returning, the Navy announced today.

The Nimitz, which has called NAS North Island home since 2001, will be based in Everett, Wash., after it undergoes a one-year overhaul in nearby Bremerton.

The repair project is why the Nimitz, named after the commander of the Pacific Fleet during World War II, left San Diego Bay on Monday.

Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, said the change was necessary because an Everett-based aircraft carrier, the Abraham Lincoln, will require a four-year refueling overhaul beginning in 2012.

The Navy expects to save $100 million by making the move.

"Many factors were considered here, including the quality of life for our sailors and their families, and the considerable cost savings to the American taxpayers," said Mabus. "Maintaining a carrier in Everett will ensure long-term strategic dispersal and operational readiness of our fleet which is critical to our national security."

Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, said she repeatedly spoke with senior Navy officials about the importance of keeping three aircraft carriers in the region.

"While I understand the Navy's operational need to move a second carrier to Naval Station Everett to replace the departing USS Lincoln, I am concerned about the impact this decision will have on San Diego and Coronado," Davis said. "Not only does this mean a short-term loss in economic impact to our region, but it means the loss of thousands of sailors and their families that make up such an important part of our community."

Members of the Nimitz crew who chose to leave their families in San Diego during the one-year maintenance period will be allowed to move eligible family members to Washington state.

It's estimated that the crew of an aircraft carrier is paid more than $200 million, much of which is spent at area shops and restaurants.

There are now two carriers based at Coronado -- the Carl Vinson is on deployment and the Ronald Reagan is scheduled to be deployed next year.

Davis said top Navy officials understand the importance of San Diego as a base, and believes the area could be the base of a new aircraft carrier by 2016.

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