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Plan to repair Battleship NC may come with hefty price tag

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — An iconic piece of history that rests in the Cape Fear River is getting a little TLC, but it needs even more.

Staff at the Battleship North Carolina says the state’s World War II memorial needs repairs, and they know just the right technology for the job.

You won’t see this ship hit the open seas any time soon, but the Battleship North Carolina will get quite the facelift after sitting in brackish water for decades.

“This ship, just like any other ship or boat in this type of environment, needs constant repair and maintenance,” Battleship assistant director Chris Vargo said.

Normally ships like this are meant to be taken out of the water every few years for inspection, but the Battleship has not been taken out of the water since the 1940s.

“The bottom line is (the hull is) thinning,” Vargo said. “It’s steel in a saltwater environment or in a brackish water environment, and it’s deteriorating. We recently repaired areas of the starboard bow, but we know that different areas throughout the hull are in similar shape, and we need to get to them and repair them.”

With the hull partially submerged and trips to a dry dock too costly, Vargo says it’s difficult to make these repairs. The solution is building a permanent cofferdam around the ship to let crews remove water and sediment and get to work to preserve this piece of history.

“If you look at the purpose of the North Carolina as a memorial to those who fought and died in World War II, I think that explains itself,” Vargo said. “It’s vital, and we need to keep it here, and what we plan to do will ensure that happens.”

Vargo estimates building a permanent cofferdam will cost about $15 million. Until they take a look underwater, though, they wont know for sure. The Battleship is also trying to figure out how to pay for the work.

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