Problems face new artificial reef

Published 8:15 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2007

When the USTS Texas Clipper finally plunged beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico in a plume of spray at 12:35 p.m., Nov. 17, it is fair to say the mood aboard many of the boats chartered to observe the sinking was euphoric.

    More than $4 million and a decade of planning and preparation had gone into converting the storied ship into an artificial reef, and the sinking itself was twice delayed in that final week due to rough seas.

    The reef is intended to provide benefits to the local community by attracting divers and recreational fishing to the site and the area. Nearly 200 people viewed the ship as she took her final resting place that will provide ecological benefits for years to come.

    A sonar survey and follow-up dives have revealed that the ship is completely resting on her port side. The intention was for the ship to rest on its keel and in an upright position. In that orientation, it would be available to a broad range of divers from beginners to the experienced.

    A yellow, lighted spar buoy is connected to the bow of the ship, at Lat: 26 11’ 24.31646″ and Lon: -96 51’ 41.16392″ (NAD 83). The stern of the ship rests at Lat: 26 11’ 28.8.828″ and Lon: -96 51’ 42.56449″.

    “The ship, as she now sits on the bottom, will still have some of the biological benefits to corals, sponges, fish and other organisms as originally intended,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Artificial Reef Program Coordinator Dale Shively said.

    “We certainly wished that she had landed upright because that would have maximized the benefits of the ship to the fishing and diving communities.”

    TPWD is currently working with the contractor, Resolve Marine Services, Inc., to have the ship moved to an upright position. 

    The USTS Texas Clipper reefing project was funded from donations to the artificial reef fund from the Rigs-to-Reefs program and through matching funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Maritime Administration that will allow the state to recoup about $2.5 million of the project cost.

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