LA PORTE – The Battleship Texas may be in line for another big battle, and the loser may be La Porte and East Harris County.
In a last minute maneuver in the 86th Legislative session, State Representative John Cryer (R-Lockhart) and State Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) sponsored a bill that would allow the ship to be moved to another location, reportedly Galveston, after it received $35 million in state money for repairs in a shipyard in Alabama. SB1511 provides for the transfer of the ship from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife to the Texas Historical Commission, and then to a nonprofit, possibly the Battleship Texas Foundation. Who would make the final decision on relocation is not clear from the bill.
Local state representatives Mary Ann Perez and Briscoe Cain have been vocal in opposing the move. Perez pointed out that the Galveston population is seasonal, and there is no guarantee that more people would visit than in La Porte. Cain filed an amendment to stop the ship from being relocated, but it was not in the final bill.
The Battleship Texas is 107 years old, having seen service in two world wars. It has been located in La Porte for about 70 years.
However, the steel hull of the ship has rusted over the years, and is very thin in some locations. Water enters the hull constantly and must be pumped out to keep the ship from sinking.
Bruce Bramlett of the Battleship Texas Foundation said the a decline in number of visitors has left the group without enough money to keep repairing the ship. The assumption is that a new location, probably in Galveston, would attract more paying visitors and generate funds for the continual upkeep.