Texas voters passed a 25 million dollar bond issue last year to pay for sprucing up the historic Battleship Texas, and building a dry berth that will get her out of the water and extend her life by many years. With four million dollars in donations raised by the Battleship Texas Foundation, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a total of 29 million dollars for this work. Battleship manager Andy Smith says the bonds have been sold and they have the green light to get this project off square one.
"The first stage of that money being spent is going to go into engineering surveys, with the need for us to put out what's called an RFQ, a Request for Qualifications, to see which and who can be qualified to do a project like this."
Smith says they hope to have an engineering firm hired by the fall. They already know it's possible to build a dry berth under and around the ship. More important, they know the ship can stand being taken out of the water, because she's in remarkable shape for a ship that's nearly a hundred years old.
"The ship is in very good condition overall, it was well built. Our problems are on the surface, if you will. The actual hull leaks but the structure of the ship could support a dry berthing for an extended period of time."
Smith says with the legislative and funding hurdles cleared, the pace of the project will pick up. First comes a period of public input, because the USS Texas is a historical artifact, the last survivor of that early 20th century generation of warships known as dreadnoughts. She's the last one. She's also in a historical park that's a wetlands area, which requires an environmental impact study. These steps can take up to two years before actual work begins, but once it does start, Smith says the work can be finished in 18 months to two years. What, exactly, will the public see?
"The initial concepts, if you will, are all a berth in place, and when I say a "berth", basically imagine all the water drained away from the ship and it's sitting basically where it is, basically at the same level it is, and now instead of floating, it is actually on blocks."
Smith says if the project stays on or close to this flexible schedule, the spruced up Battleship Texas will be parked in her dry berth, high and dry, and ready for the public by 2014, which will be the 100th anniversary of her commissioning. Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.
For more informtion about the Battleship Texas State Historic Site, visit the TPWD website.