Jupiter divers could soon have access to a sunken Navy submarine as a new underwater dive site.
Palm Beach County has approved $1 million toward sinking a historic Cold War submarine that would become an artificial reef off the coast of Jupiter. The county commission secured the funding in a unanimous vote Tuesday.
The USS Clamagore, a 322-foot ship with a history of 30 years of service during the Cold War, has been stationed at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in South Carolina since the 1980s. The submarine has experienced saltwater damage from spending decades stationed in the harbor, and would otherwise meet its demise.
“No veteran wants to see the ship that they served on turn into scrap metal,” Jena McNeal, artificial reef coordinator for the Department of Environmental Resources Management, said.
Commissioner Hal Valeche, who helped push the project forward, was a veteran himself and, in fact, also saw the ship he worked with become an artificial reef, according to McNeal.
The entire artificial reef project—from transportation to sinking—is estimated to cost $4 million. With $1 million already secured, the company working with Patriots Point to turn the submarine into a reef is responsible for fundraising the rest from private sponsors like Salt Life. The hope is to be able to sink the submarine by August, though that time frame could change, according to McNeal.
An off-shore spot south of Juno Pier was selected as an ideal location because it would be an easy access point for boaters from both Jupiter Inlet and Palm Beach Inlet.
The artificial reef would also help ease the strain on natural reefs as divers’ reef options in the Palm Beach County area are diversified, McNeal said.
“It just increases the habitat for reef species to live on and grow on,” she said. “Our natural reefs are always under pressure.”
The contractors, Miami-based CRB Geological and Environmental Services, are looking to transfer the USS Clamagore’s National Historic Register status to its new underwater home. There’s also talk of opening a museum location in the coming years with some of the artifacts retrieved from the interior of the submarine.
“Those veterans can then go to that museum site, and still take part,” McNeal said.
(Photos courtesy Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management)