The Battleship Texas will soon be on the move, and speculation abounds about where the WWI-era ship might end up, including some that the popular tourist attraction might be headed to the island.
Local officials are interested in that prospect, but note that no definite plan exists to berth the ship in Galveston, they said.
Discussions about the ship’s future are moving quickly, however, said Bruce Bramlett, executive director of the Battleship Texas Foundation, which raises money for and promotes the ship as an attraction.
The foundation has contemplated having to move the ship from its home near the San Jacinto Monument in La Porte for three years, Bramlett said. The group even commissioned a study about possible new homes, including Galveston, he said.
“Galveston is one of the places on the list,” Bramlett said.
The Texas House of Representatives on May 26 approved a bill that requires the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to enter into an operating agreement with the nonprofit that manages the USS Texas.
The legislature also appropriated $35 million for repairs of the ship, Bramlett said. The hope is to move the Texas to a dry dock in Florida or Alabama by this fall, he said.
Where it goes after that is unclear, he said.
Much of the talk over the past week has mentioned Galveston as a potential new home for the ship. The possibility was mentioned in the closing days of the legislative session, which ended Monday, when some Houston lawmakers tried, and failed, to secure a guarantee that the ship be returned to La Porte.
State Rep. John Cyrier, a Republican from Lockhart, said Galveston would be the “best option to save the battleship.”
Other representatives questioned the logic of that, however, arguing the ship should return to its longtime home and questioning whether Galveston could or even would support the ship.
State Rep. Mary Ann Perez, a Houston Democrat whose district includes La Porte, said she didn’t think Galveston’s fluctuating tourism seasons could generate enough money to support the ship.
“During the winter months, no one goes to Galveston,” she said.
That opinion doesn’t match reality, local officials said. A record 7.2 million people visited the island last year, according to the Galveston Park Board of Trustees.
Galveston city officials had one conversation, about a year ago, with people representing the ship, but it didn’t result in any action, Galveston City Manager Brian Maxwell said.
He was interested in hearing more about the possibility, he said.
“We’re certainly interested, but there are a lot of logistical things that need to be worked out and we’ve had no contact,” Maxwell said.
A Port of Galveston spokeswoman relayed a similar sentiment.
“We would be interested in hearing about the project, however, at this time we have not been contacted by anyone regarding the Battleship Texas,” Cristina Galego said.
Park board officials did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, but a spokeswoman confirmed there’s been no official discussion about moving the ship to Galveston.
Part of the foundation’s decision about where the Texas will tie up depends on what a city or agency can offer for a berth, Bramlett said.
Two military ships already are in Galveston’s Seawolf Park on Pelican Island, which is maintained by the park board. Both the USS Cavalla, a submarine, and the USS Stewart, a destroyer escort, are kept on platforms on dry land. A private group maintains the vessels.
The USS Texas has been to Galveston before. In 1988, it was towed from La Porte to be repaired at a dry dock on Pelican Island.
It took nine tug boats to pull the ship out of the mud at San Jacinto State Park. A dozen diesel and electric pumps were required to keep it from sinking as it sailed to Galveston at 4 mph.
The ship was repaired and left in 1990.
The foundation’s hope is that a plan for where to move the battleship once repairs are made will be finalized by December, Bramlett said.
The Legislative Budget Board would have to approve that plan, he said.