The final fate of the USS Hoyt S. Vandenberg was determined this week when the 524-foot former navy vessel was bought by The First State Bank of the Florida Keys for $1.35 million at a federal auction in Virginia. The sale has cleared the way for the final preparatory work to be completed to bring the former World War II-era missile tracking ship to the Florida Keys where it will be sunk 6 miles off the coast of Key West in early 2009. This will make the USS Vandenberg the second largest artificial reef in the world.
“DEMA is delighted to learn of the purchase of the Vandenberg and congratulates the city of Key West and the First State Bank of the Florida Keys for their perseverance in making the 12-year artificial reef project a reality,” stated Tom Ingram, Executive Director of the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association. “We could not be more excited about the positive benefits the sinking of the USS Vandenberg will provide to the local Florida economy including the local dive retailers, charter operators and others in the scuba diving industry, as well as nearby restaurants, hotels and others. The Florida Ships 2 Reefs legislation enacted in 2008 with the assistance of DEMA and PADI was designed specifically to accomplish this kind of development for local economies. According to a recent study by NOAA, the Vandenberg Artificial Reef is estimated to bring in an additional $6.2 million in annual revenues and a half-million dollars in annual sales taxes,” Ingram concluded.
The USS Vandenberg will join the USS Oriskany and the USS Spiegel Grove to cement Florida’s position as a leader in the number of vessels functioning as artificial reefs in the United States. Thousands of visitors choose Florida to scuba dive on the artificial reef trail, providing an economic boost to the communities of the more than 300 Florida-based retail dive centers and local diving operators. “According to one study, the expenditures of divers visiting artificial reefs in Florida were more than $220 per person per day,” added Ingram.
In addition to being spectacular dive sites, artificial reefs provide additional hard bottom habitats that favor many species of large reef fish. Additionally they provide attractive and ecologically sound alternatives to fishing or diving on natural reefs. A recent study by NOAA also confirms 197 different species of fish thrive in the USS Spiegel Grove which was sunk just over 5 years ago. The ship also reflects how the historical and unique underwater sites are attractive to divers and snorkelers to explore. The USS Oriskany, which is the world’s largest artificial reef located off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, is so popular amongst the diving community that some local dive operations have up to a three month waiting list for divers to get on a boat to access this new edition to Florida’s artificial reefs. In May of 2006 the Pensacola Convention and Visitors Bureau (PCVB) invested $1 million dollars in bringing the decommissioned aircraft carrier to the Pensacola Florida area for sinking as an artificial reef. PCVB estimated that their entire investment was returned to the surrounding community during the three days after the carrier was sunk.
DEMA (dema.org), the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, is an international organization dedicated to the promotion and growth of the recreational scuba diving and snorkeling industry. With more than 1,600 members, this non-profit, global organization promotes scuba diving through many initiatives including consumer awareness programs, media campaigns and sponsorship of DEMA Show, a trade event open only to companies doing business in the scuba diving, action water sports and adventure/dive travel industries. DEMA Show 2009 will take place November 4-7, 2009 in Orlando, FL. For more information on DEMA Show 2009, visit demashow.com. For more information on DEMA, call 858-616-6408 or visit the website. For more information on the Be A Diver campaign, visit beadiver.com.