PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) – It’s been a year since the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was saved from closing – so it’s party time.

To celebrate the anniversary, the Seacoast Shipyard Association held a ceremony and rally Thursday to thank the thousands of people who helped in the fight. They wore the familiar-looking yellow “Save Our Shipyard” T-shirts from last year’s campaign. This time, the shirts had “Mission Accomplished” stamped in red.

“It didn’t matter that we were standing toe-to-toe with the most powerful department on the face of this planet,” said shipyard union leader Paul O’Connor. “We had to do it, that’s what we did, and we prevailed.”

The Kittery, Maine, base had been recommended for closure by the Department of Defense, despite Navy findings that it was the most cost-efficient boatyard in the nation.

Had the shipyard closed, it would have had a major impact on the area.

Residents and lawmakers of both states wrote letters, held rallies and convinced a federal commission the yard deserved to stay open.

Last August, the commission took Portsmouth off the list of doomed bases, preserving at least 4,500 jobs, and, according to its chairman, avoiding a national tragedy.

The yard is the “gold standard by which the country should measure shipyards,” Chairman Anthony Principi said.

At the ceremony Thursday in Portsmouth’s Prescott Park, Maine Gov. John Baldacci and New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch received awards from the Seacoast Shipyard Association, as did surrounding communities, including Portsmouth and Kittery.

“I stood with you over a year ago at the Shipyard and vowed to you that this facility would not shut down,” Baldacci told the crowd of about 100. “Those were very trying months, but they really brought this community together. In the end, the quality of work done here, which reflects the quality of the people, made the crucial difference.”

Many of the key players involved in saving the shipyard seem focused on the future.

“Portsmouth was, is and continues to be the best shipyard for turning around our submarines … faster and sooner than any other yard, and saving us millions of dollars,” said New Hampshire 1st District Rep. Jeb Bradley. “The Maine and New Hampshire delegation (are doing) everything possible to advocate for Portsmouth’s fair share of the workload.”

Shipyard workers agree. “We’re still fighting to keep our ground,” O’Connor said.

Earlier this year, though, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy said the shipyard should expect a decrease in workload in 2008. Maintenance is expected to decrease on the Los Angeles-class 688 submarines, he said.

Senators from both Maine and New Hampshire have said that although maintenance work will decline starting in 2008, they believe there is sufficient work available to provide Portsmouth and the other shipyard with a robust work load.


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