Ferryboat turned restaurant turns reef

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AUGUST 5 - A century-old boat that once served as a floating nuclear energy information center and later as a Hooters restaurant was intentionally sunk more than eight miles off the coast of New Jersey.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sank the 207-foot (LOA) Elizabeth on Wednesday near Cape May, N.J., to become part of the state’s artificial reef site located there, a news report says. The boat will join approximately 135 other sunken boats that provide habitats for fish and support the state’s diving industry.

Acting Gov. Richard J. Codney says in a news report that the sinking of the Elizabeth “improves coastal resources while keeping the shore a quality part of the Jersey experience for future generations.”

The Elizabeth originally operated as a ferry on the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York City, a report says. The boat was later refitted and docked at a nuclear generating complex in Lower Alloways Creek Township where it housed exhibits educating visitors about nuclear energy. In the 1990s, the Elizabeth became a Hooters restaurant on the Delaware River near Philadelphia.

The boat sank in 2003 — a year after the restaurant closed — but was later raised to become part of the reef. The DEP purchased the Elizabeth, along with two other boats, with a $100,000 appropriation.

The DEP began its ocean reef-building program in 1984, a news report says. Over the years, the department has established 14 reef sites along the New Jersey coast, using sunken ships and barges, former New York City subway cars and various other materials like chunks of concrete and steel.

Jason Fell