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OFFICIALS TARGET DATE TO SINK VANDENBERG OFF KEY WEST

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KEY WEST, Florida Keys – Project organizers, coordinating the transformation of a retired missile-tracking ship into an artificial reef off Key West, said Friday they hope to sink the Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg May 27.

“Our sink window opens Wednesday, May 27, and that’s the date we’re currently targeting,” said Jim Scholl, Key West’s city manager and project administrator. “However, there are factors that could delay the scuttling, including weather and other unforeseen circumstances.”

The 523-foot-long ship that once tracked spacecraft blastoffs from Cape Canaveral as well as Russian missile launches during the Cold War is currently in Key West Harbor undergoing final preparations to be scuttled. The day before the scheduled sinking, the ship is to be towed and anchored at a predetermined site situated seven miles south of Key West in 140 feet of water.

A time for the sinking has not yet been set, but it is likely to be in late morning, officials said.

Law enforcement agencies, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Coast Guard, are to enforce a 500-yard perimeter around the ship during the transit from Key West Harbor to the sink site. For the sinking, a one-mile perimeter is to be enforced on the water and in the air. No unauthorized vessels or aircraft will be permitted within those perimeters.

Following the scuttling, an assessment will be made to ensure the vessel has landed on the bottom properly and then Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary officials are to begin installing mooring buoys. After the buoys are installed, the wreck can open to sport divers, sanctuary officials said.

More than 70 percent of the project’s $8.6 million cost has gone to ridding the vessel of contaminants so the Vandenberg can be sunk without adversely impacting the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

For more information about the Vandenberg project, go to www.fla-keys.com or www.bigshipwrecks.com.

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