Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary south of Key West now has a new artificial reef thanks to the retired missile-tracking ship General Hoyt S. Vandenberg. Next to the former aircraft carrier Oriskany, the 523-foot Vandenberg is the second-largest ship to be deployed as an artificial diving and fishing reef in the Florida Keys. It is located about six miles south-southeast of Key West in 140 feet of water.
The project is a collaboration of agencies including the City of Key West (which owns the ship), Reefmakers Inc. (the primary contractor for the project), the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Its placement in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary will help divert recreational fishing and diving pressure away from natural reefs near the ship and with a life span of about 100 years it provides a stable, long-term habitat for marine fish species.
Prior to sinking, the vessel was cleansed of pollutants including the removal of nearly 800,000 feet of wire. The total cost of the project including environmental monitoring is approximately $8.5 million. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that the new artificial reef will increase annual expenditures in Monroe County, Fla., by roughly $7.5 million and will create about 195 full and part-time jobs.