The project's local booster, Naples diver and fisherman Mike Taworksi, is moving forward with plans to submerge another ship in the same location. He is looking at two that are docked at a naval yard in Philadephia — the USS Hawes and USS Doyle.
MARCO ISLAND — After plans to bring the USS George Philip to Collier County sank, project leaders propelled ahead with other options.
Last year, Collier County commissioners formally asked the U.S. Navy to put the decommissioned ship on "donation hold" instead of scrapping it. The county planned to use the 455-foot frigate as an artificial reef about 30 miles west of Marco Island.
The Sheriff's Office and local fire departments found a precise spot, six miles north of the so-called "R" Tower, for the potential reef. The county even submitted an application to get a federal permit to sink the ship there.
But the Navy decided to scrap the frigate anyway.
"We weren't able to override that, to our dismay," the county's legislative affairs coordinator Debbie Wight told the Daily News last year.
Nevertheless, the project's local booster, Naples diver and fisherman Mike Taworksi, is moving forward with plans to submerge another ship in the same location. He is looking at two that are docked at a naval yard in Philadephia — the USS Hawes and USS Doyle.
"They are two of the USS George Philip's sister ships," Taworksi said. "They're both sitting there on mothballs. It seems likely one of those will be available next year."
Once a ship opens up, if Collier County secures it, Taworski intends to tow it to Tampa for cleaning and stripping before deployment. The whole process is estimated to cost about $120,000. The USS George Philip would have cost about $2 million to tow from Washington.
Taworski is working with county environmental specialist Pamela Keyes to acquire federal and state permits. Since the initial submittal last year, Keyes and Taworski have been working to resolve questions raised by the Navy in the application.
Whatever happened to?
Editor's note: The Daily News takes an occasional look back at people and issues that have been in the local news, though not lately. Have an idea? Post it below this story at naplesnews.com or call (239) 435-3457 and leave a brief message.
"It's basically little things we were able to work through," Taworski said. "We addressed and responded to all their concerns."
The updated submittal should be in the Navy's hands any day now.
"Part of the artificial reef program is to try to get spots permitted," Keyes said. "So, when materials do become available we have a place to put them."
Keyes added that county staff is open to deploying other objects in the area, such as miscellaneous concrete, an old barge or a ship.
"It doesn't necessarily have to be a ship," Keyes said. "It can also be some other material approved by the state."
Keyes said the permitting process could take more than nine months. Once an area is approved, it is open for five to 10 years.
Taworski hopes to get an answer by early 2012 and have the ship submerged in about 18 months. In the meantime, he is working on coming up with money for the project.
"We have a good amount of support and people wanting to give money," Taworski said. "I think because it will bring back eight times a year of what it will cost to reap."
A sunken ship in Collier County would benefit the local economy and the environment, Taworski said.
"It will bring people to dive who will visit restaurants, hotels and dive shops," Taworski said. "It's a real money-maker plus it's a nursery for fish, bringing in more marine life."