Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have announced that the Zuni/Tamaroa, a World War II-era ship with a famed history at sea that continued into the 1990s, has been cleared by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Coast Guard for sinking onto the Del-Jersey-Land Inshore Artificial Reef.
The Zuni/Tamaroa will be jointly sunk by the two states approximately 26 nautical miles from both Lewes, DE and Cape May, N.J. Weather permitting, the deployment could come as early as this Tuesday, April 18.
Both the EPA and Coast Guard recently inspected Zuni/Tamaroa at the Norfolk, Va. shipyard of contractor Coleen Marine. Extensive environmental preparation for reefing the 74-year-old vessel included removing interior paneling and insulation, and emptying and cleaning the vessel of all fuel and fluids.
The Coast Guard approved the ship as fit for reefing on the Del-Jersey-Land site, which comprises military ships including the destroyer USS Arthur W. Radford, the longest ship reefed on the Atlantic Coast; the minesweeper Gregory Poole, and the Shearwater, which was in service for both the US Army as a freighter and the Navy as a support ship.
Jeff Tinsman, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife reef program coordinator, said plans call for Zuni/Tamaroa to be reefed when a weather window of 48 to 72 hours for calmer seas allows for the ship to be towed up the coast and to the reef site.
“We are certain that it will happen sooner rather than later,” Tinsman said. “Optimally, it would be right after the Easter holiday weekend. If that scheduling holds, anglers and divers should be working the Zuni/Tamaroa for recreational opportunities that she presents almost immediately.”
As spotlighted in the October, 2016 edition of The Fisherman Magazine’s New Jersey and Delaware Bay edition, the legendary ship was first launched on July 31, 1943, and commissioned the United States Navy as the USS Zuni. One of 70 built in her naval class, the “Mighty Z” saw action in World War II in the Pacific theater around the Marianas and Philippines, running two operations as a Navajo-class fleet tug at Iwo Jima. Named for the Zuni tribe of Pueblo Indians indigenous to the Zuni River area of central New Mexico, the Mighty Z would earn four battle stars for her WWII service.
The Zuni was decommissioned on June 29, 1946 and transferred to the United States Coast Guard where she would later be named the Tamaroa after the Illiniwek tribe. The bulk of the Tamaroa’s Coast Guard career was spent patrolling, working in drug interdiction and federal fisheries protection, and she was the first Coast Guard Cutter to arrive at the sinking of the Andrea Doria off Nantucket Island in 1956; but the Tamaroa will probably be forever as the cutter that rescued the crew of the sailing yacht Satori and survivors of the downed Air National Guard helicopter during the so-called “Perfect Storm” of 1991.
DNREC is the lead agency on the Zuni/Tamaroa reefing project, providing 75 percent of the funding from The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration program administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. New Jersey is providing 25 percent matching funds from The Fisherman Magazine’s old Sport Fishing Fund. With ongoing support from the Ann E. Clark foundation and their continued efforts in support of the Sportfishing Fund, both states are working on this unique venture to deploy the Tamaroa along the very same grounds she patrolled for the second part of the 20th Century, helping carry on her career in fisheries management while serving the recreation sportfishing community for decades to come