Alabama has eyes on USS Orleck

Fundraiser trying to keep naval museum in Lake Charles

By Gena Latrell
glatrell@americanpress.com

An official with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said they are in “early talks” about moving the USS Orleck naval ship from its current location off Enterprise Boulevard in Lake Charles.

“We haven’t bought it, but I have talked to a contractor about the possibility of it moving here,” said Craig Newton, coordinator of the Alabama Marine Resources Division’s Artificial Reefs Program, based in Dauphin Island, Ala.

But Ron Williams, executive director of the USS Orleck Naval Museum, said they are trying to raise $350,000 to “Save the Orleck” and keep it “a permanent fixture in Lake Charles.” The fundraiser, which runs through Dec. 31, has generated more than $71,000, according to the Orleck’s website.

Newton said the Orleck is “one of 50 ships” the department is looking to acquire.

A decorated destroyer commissioned in 1945 during World War II, the USS Orleck sailed for more than 50 years. It is currently docked in the Calcasieu River and serves as a naval museum.

Securing a permanent dock would help the museum raise the necessary funds to keep the ship local, Williams said. Their ideal location is by the Interstate 10 bridge by Isle of Capri Casino.

“We would like a dock on the lakefront,” he said. “We could also apply for grants.”

Williams said he secured the necessary permit and was ready to move the ship to the lakefront. Those actions were halted when the Isle of Capri was sold to Eldorado Resorts, Inc. in 2017.

Williams said he wrote to Eldorado Resorts a “couple of months ago” to resume the move, but has not received a formal reply from them.

“We’re not trying to make (Eldorado Resorts) ‘the bad guy’ or put them on the spot,” he said. “We’re asking them to work with us.”

If the fundraiser falls short, Williams said the Orleck could be sold to a state with a reefing program, severed and made into an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico. The artifacts would be given to other museums or ships around the country. 

“That’s only a contingency plan,” he said. “We are trying to save the USS Orleck.”

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The USS Orleck naval ship is currently located off Enterprise Boulevard in Lake Charles.

RickHickmanPhotographer
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The USS Orleck naval ship is currently located off Enterprise Boulevard in Lake Charles.

RickHickmanPhotographer
https://www.americanpress.com/content/tncms/avatars/6/d3/ea1/6d3ea1c8-3a6c-11e7-a1c2-0f91a5883b36.b31acdd1ef972ec0a2acb8ea5b28d153.png