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No Valid Bids During eBay Auction for Key West Artificial Reef Naming Rights; 'None Were Serious'

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KEY WEST, Florida -- None of three bids posted on an eBay auction for naming rights to a proposed artificial reef project off Key West are valid, but the project will move ahead, organizers said Tuesday.

The bids ranged from $900,000 to $900,200.

"We checked the credibility of bids," said Joe Weatherby, a project organizer with Artificial Reefs of the Keys. "None were serious."

However, Weatherby says he has the $5.7 million in fiscal commitments needed to cleanse, tow and sink the retired U.S. Air Force missile-tracking ship General Hoyt S. Vandenberg. Those pledges include $3 million from two Monroe County government entities and $1.3 million from the City of Key West.

Weatherby said he is still shopping for a major naming sponsor to avoid using the city's financial resources and has been in discussions with an individual that contacted him independent of the auction.

Since 1984, the 524-foot vessel, that also monitored NASA space launches, has been a part of the "ghost fleet," resting amid other decommissioned vessels at the James River Naval Reserve Fleet in Fort Eustis, Va.

The proposed artificial reef is expected to attract marine life, provide an ongoing impact to the tourism-based economy and benefit the underwater environment by taking recreational diving pressure off natural coral reefs.

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