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After Ten Years, Project to Sink the Vandenberg off Florida Keys Begins; 'We are Just Thrilled'

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NORFOLK, Virginia -- The ex-USAFS Vandenberg was moved from a collection of retired government ships anchored in the James River near Newport News, Virginia Friday. The Vandenberg was decommissioned in 1986 and has rested at anchor with over 25 retired ships of the reserve fleet often referred as the "Ghost Fleet."

"After today's successful move of the ship, the City of Key West now holds the title to Vandenberg. This project is a great example of citizens working with government agencies to take a big step in creating a unique recreational diving and fishing site that will grow our economy while giving our natural reefs a break," said Bill Verge, City Commissioner Key West Florida.

"The people of Monroe County will reap the environmental and recreational benefits from sinking the Vandenberg as an artificial reef in their own backyards. So many people who have worked behind the scenes to make this project a success should take a bow. Personally as a scuba diver I have to admit that I am especially excited to see the landmark artificial reef blossom by the sinking of the Vandenberg," said Mario DiGennaro, Mayor of Monroe County.

Reefmakers LLC of Morsetown New Jersey is the lead contractor coordinating the safety and environmental cleanup of the ship necessary to prepare the Vandenberg as an artificial reef . Planning for today's 26-mile tow from the Ghost Fleet mooring to the shipyard began in 2003. The Vandenberg will be cleaned and prepared for deployment in Key West at Colonna's Shipyard, Inc. of Norfolk, VA. The vessel will be ready to move to Key West late this year and deployed at the reef site early next year.

"Today marks a major milestone in our mission to sink the Vandenberg as an artificial reef. The environmental and safety processes the Reefmakers team will use on this project will help create more artificial reefs from the retired ships which makes sound environmental and economic sense," Jeff Dey CEO Reefmakers LLC.

Bill Horn of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission helped plan and supervise the Vandenberg's move and provided regulatory guidance for today's move and the events that will lead up to the sinking of the ship as an artificial reef.

"The main objective of the Vandenberg project is take the pressure of the natural reefs and provide additional habitat for sea life and create recreational fishing and scuba diving opportunities," said Horn.

"Thanks to support from Mario DeGennaro Mayor of Monroe County and Bill Verge, City Commissioner Key West Florida, and a large number of dedicated people at ARK and Reefmakers, the long awaited operational phase of the Vandenberg artificial reef project has finally begun. We are all very excited," said Jeff Dey

Joe Weatherby of Reefmakers has been a principal in the organization of this project since its inception.

"I want to thank all of the people, not just in the Keys, but in the state and the country, too. It has been a big effort. We are just thrilled," said Joe Weatherby.

For more information on the Vandenberg dive in to

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