GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials are looking for a ship to buy and sink in the Gulf of Mexico for another artificial reef.
The ship must be steel, 300 to 500 feet long and have interesting or complicated structures on deck, the Galveston County Daily News (http://bit.ly/1qsGiJO ) reported Sunday.
The proposed 40-acre site is an estimated 60 miles off Galveston in about 140 feet of water, according to Chris Ledford, a reef specialist with the department.
The nearly $4 million project is funded through oil and gas company donations. About $1.8 million would come from Natural Resource Damage Assessment Funds awarded as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, Ledford said.
Large steel ships work best to provide sturdy surfaces to which marine life can attach.
"And they make really cool dive sites," Ledford said.
The plan has its initial permits and clearances with a timeline of about two years before the reef could be established, he said. Within the next few months, the department will seek bids from companies that will find a ship and sink it.
Once the department secures a vessel it will be stripped down to bare metal. Hazardous materials, such as fuel and oil, will be removed in accordance with federal standards. Anything that floats will also be removed, along with wiring and electronics.
"Finding the ship is probably the biggest hurdle we've got left," Ledford said.
The department in 2007 sank the 473-foot Texas Clipper, which had been a training vessel at Texas A&M University at Galveston. The ship, which hauled troops during World War II, was scuttled 12 miles off South Padre Island.
Once a ship is on the bottom, nature generally takes over as algae grow on the vessel and fish move in.
"It's pretty impressive how quickly critters show up," Ledford said.
Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, http://www.galvnews.com