It’s probably the most revered ship in Texas history, and rightly so. But the Battleship Texas, currently moored at San Jacinto Battleground, needs a way to preserve its illustrious past without costing future taxpayers too much. This is not going to be an easy challenge, and state officials will have to use all their abilities and resources to find the right solution.
The problem, as with so many state issues, is money. The hull of the Texas is badly corroded after 104 years, and for a long time it has needed constant pumping just to keep it afloat. The Legislature has approved $35 million to tow and repair the battleship at a dry dock in Louisiana, Alabama or Florida. But the ship’s condition is so questionable that some observers wonder if it can even make it to a dry dock in another state. They raise the alarming possibility of the ship sinking halfway or blocking an important passage or port.
“I’m very concerned if it went down and blocked the (Houston) ship channel,” said U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Woodville. “The cost to our industry and our nation would be very high.”
Babin’s district includes the current home of the Texas, which raises another touchy issue. It’s not really a good fit for the San Jacinto story, where Mexican Gen. Santa Anna was defeated in 1836 and Texas effectively gained its independence. The Texas is a modern naval vessel. She should be displayed in a setting that fits her legacy.
Seawolf Park in Galveston, which includes the Galveston Naval Museum, is one obvious possibility. State Rep. John Cyrier, R-Lockhart, sponsor of the House bill for repair funding, says that by moving the ship to Galveston, it would draw more tourists and the resulting ticket sales could help pay for its upkeep, which will be millions of dollars per year.
But — getting back to the money issue — Galveston City Manager Brian Maxwell has already said that while he might welcome the Texas’ relocation, the city won’t help make it happen, saying bluntly, “The city is not in a financial position right now to be a partner.”
The best long-range solution might something that has been considered before — “dry berthing” the Texas, which means displaying it in a way that she is not in water. Yet again, that option is expensive, and some fear that the ship’s internal structure may be too insecure to permit that approach without bracing it up.
Somehow, state officials have to sort through all these proposals and cost estimates and find a solution that feasible for the future. The Texas is the only surviving U.S. Navy vessel that served in World War I and World War II. She shelled the beaches at Normandy 75 years ago to help make D-Day a success. A legacy like that must be preserved for all Texans.