Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Available: Destroyer suitable for reef


Press of Atlantic City
By Richard Degener
February 05, 2008

It's almost two football fields long. It displaces more than 9,000 tons. It may soon become the largest ship ever sunk, intentionally that is, off the coast of New Jersey.

The mothballed U.S. Navy destroyer USS Arthur W. Radford has been made available for "artificial reefing." In other words, the ship now moored at the U.S. Navy Yard in Philadelphia is free for the taking if somebody wants to take it offshore and sink it to create habitat for marine life.

The Navy usually sells such ships for scrap but is on a new course to turn them into artificial reefs, both as a memorial of sorts to those who served on them but also as a another way to get rid of them.

A group of recreational anglers and scuba divers along the New Jersey shore are making a case to sink it here, the closest ocean reef location to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. It would be the largest ship, and first warship, ever added to the state Department of Environmental Protection's system of 15 offshore reefs. The largest ship thus far has been the 456-foot USS Algol at the Shark River Reef off Manasquan Inlet.

"This would be the biggest thing they they've ever done and might be the biggest they ever do," said Bill Figley, who ran the DEP's reef network for years but is now retired.
Figley, whose love of the reef system continued even after retirement, is helping with the proposal. The numbers are mind-boggling. The ship is 563 feet long and 55 feet wide. Its draft below water is 32 feet, but then there is 140 feet above the water line. Figley figures it will cost at least $500,000 and as much as $4 million to sink the ship off New Jersey. This includes the cost of making sure it is environmentally safe before it is sunk.

It sounds like a lot, but Figley said fishing and diving clubs would raise much of the money. Copper wire, nickel, 500 tons of aluminum in the superstructure, and numerous engines on the ship could be sold to raise money for the project, Figley said.

"The DEP is not going to ask for tax dollars," Figley said.

The DEP is still considering the proposal. The Navy has given the states until March 28 to express interest in writing with a letter of endorsement from the governor. An application to transfer the destroyer to a state is due by April 28.

Fishing and diving groups are waging a letter-writing campaign to DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson.

"We've received many letters on the issue but no decision has been made," Darlene Yuhas, a DEP spokeswoman, said Monday.

The Jersey Coast Anglers Association, or JCAA, is urging Jackson to use the power of her office to secure the USS Radford. The JCAA notes there are 1.3 million saltwater anglers and divers in the state, and it would also attract people from outside New Jersey.

"Its huge structure would attract a correspondingly huge abundance of marine life and greatly enhance New Jersey's artificial reef program," said JCAA President John Toth. "Residents and non-residents of our state using this vessel for diving and fishing would also benefit the local economy through their purchase of gas, meals, diving and fishing gear."

Figley noted the a World War II-era U.S. Navy aircraft carrier turned into a reef off Florida, at a cost of $23 million, is already paying dividends. The Navy paid those costs. The Navy is not planning to pay the costs for the USS Radford, but Figley said it would listen to cost-sharing proposals.

The aircraft carrier is the largest Navy ship turned into a reef in America. The USS Radford would be the second largest.

"The diving boats in Florida are booked 18 months in advance. This will bring in hundreds of millions over its lifespan. The same thing happened in California with a Canadian destroyer," Figley said.

New Jersey's gentling sloping coast would have put the aircraft carrier too far out, 60 to 70 miles, to make it accessible to most divers. That's because clearance is required from the top of the ship to the surface of the ocean of 30 to 80 feet depending on location. Each reef site has its own clearance requirements.

Figley said masts and rigging would be removed from the USS Radford, but it would still be limited to three sites by the clearance requirements. This includes the Shark River Reef 16 miles off Manasquan Inlet, the Deepwater Reef 25 miles off Ocean City, or a new reef 25 miles off Cape May called the Deljerseyland Reef that serves the states of New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. It would still be a decompression dive.

"As long as you're not going to the sea floor or penetrating the vessel, you could stay within 100 feet (of the surface). It would probably take half a dozen dives to see it all," Figley said.



At 1:42 AM, Blogger Freedom said...

What happened to the effort of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey for last year that was being headed up by Capt. Tim Mullane?

Jim Welch
MERC (Marine Environmental Research Corp.

Governor O’Malley Supports Multi-State Artificial Reef Effort
Navy Ship Could Become Part of Largest Artificial Reef Project on the East Coast
ANNAPOLIS, MD — Governor O’Malley today joined New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner in support of the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI) to obtain the Navy Spruance Class Destroyer Ex Radford to create a new artificial reef. The initiative would help enhance habitat life off the Delmarva Peninsula and, if granted, would become the largest artificial reef project on the East Coast.

“Fishing in Maryland is not only a favorite pastime of many of our residents and visitors, but it also helps to drive our local economies and reconnect people with nature,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “I am honored to support the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative’s multi-state efforts to enhance habitat for marine life off the Delmarva Peninsula.”

If the Navy grants use of the 564-foot vessel, it will be placed on a permitted artificial reef site known as DEL-JERSEY-LAND. The reef site is located approximately 30 nautical miles north east of the Maryland’s Ocean City inlet, 28 nautical miles east of Delaware’s Indian River Inlet in Delaware, and 32 nautical miles south east of Cape May, NJ.

“Anglers and sport divers from all three states would be able to access the site and the aquatic resources that will flourish there,” added Marty Gary, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service Manager.

Supporters in the three states will soon begin fundraising to cover the costs necessary to reef the vessel. In Maryland, the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative (MARI) has taken the lead in fundraising for artificial reef projects. Prospective sponsors or those seeking more information on the project may contact Captain Monty Hawkins at mhawkins@siteone.net or Ed Lichionne at elichionne@atlanticbb.net.

"The Radford project is the first three state co-operative reefing effort and will be the east coast's largest single artificial reef. I surely hope we can find funding in the private sector to help carry Maryland's share of the cost,” said Captain Monty Hawkins. “I hope this is the first of many future interstate reef efforts, as the projects help bolster the coast's badly degraded natural coral reef habitat. Combined with proper fisheries management; reef building can and will restore some fisheries to populations not seen since World War II."

More than 55 partnering conservation organizations, businesses, foundations, outdoor recreational organizations, and countless individuals have provided resources to make MARI possible. Individuals can help with reef projects across the State by “buying a ton” via a tax-deductible donation to the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative. The Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative was created in early 2007 to raise funds to facilitate development of marine habitat enhancement projects across the state. For more information about MARI visit http://www.marylandreefs.org.

More Information on Ex Radford may be found online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Arthur_W._Radford_(DD-968).


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