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November 2nd, 2007back

Texas clipper to be sunk as an artificial reef east of South Padre Island.

Texas clipper to be sunk as an artificial reef on november 15th east of South Padre Island.

When she is finally sent to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico Nov. 15, the USTS (United States Training Ship) Texas Clipper will go down in history as the artificial reef that almost wasn't.

The stakes were high all along: as an artificial reef, the ship is expected to generate as much as $30 million annually for local economies over a lifespan of at least 50 years. The complex, durable structure with its high, vertical profile will form the foundation of a vibrant community of corals and other invertebrates, as well as recreationally important "bottom" fish such as snappers and groupers, and pelagic species like cobia, king mackerel and dorado.

The Texas Clipper, most recently (1965-1996) a maritime training vessel for Texas A&M University-Galveston, began her life as the USS Queens (APA-103), a WWII transport and attack ship. As the Queens, she participated in the Pacific war and was the first attack troop transport to arrive at Iwo Jima. After the war she was recommissioned as the SS Excambion, one of the post-war "four aces" of the American Export Lines. As the Excambion, she carried cargo and passengers in luxurious style between New York City and Mediterranean ports.

As an artificial reef, the Texas Clipper will be the site of several scientific monitoring programs. The University of Texas-Brownsville will partner with TPWD to monitor biological growth on the hull of the ship from the very beginning, and Texas A&M University and the National Marine Fisheries Service will conduct an ongoing experiment to look at the pace of corrosion in Gulf waters (this will be useful for, among other things, gauging the potential environmental impact of wrecks containing fuel, oil and other ecologically harmful substances).

"The benefits - to the local fishery, to the economy of South Texas, and to ongoing science - are tremendous," said TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division Director Larry D. McKinney, Ph.D. "The only reason we don't have more of these complex reef communities in waters off Texas is because we lack the hard substrate that corals and other reef organisms need to get established. We can provide that with artificial reefs - whether former oil production platforms, concrete culverts or something as magnificent as this ship."