Patriots Point vessels (copy) (copy)

The submarine Clamagore rests near the aircraft carrier Yorktown and destroyer Laffey at Patriots Point Naval Museum. File/Staff

A group that hopes to keep a Cold War-era submarine above water is suing the Patriots Point Development Authority, saying the state agency doesn't have the legal right to sink the Clamagore for use as an artificial reef.

The USS Clamagore Restoration and Maintenance Association, a South Carolina nonprofit, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday. The stated mission of the group is to "save, relocate to high ground and restore" the vessel.

In its filing, the group argues that the museum authority's legal obligations to maintain the Clamagore preclude it from moving forward with possible plans to use it as a fishing ground. 

Patriots Point said in a statement Tuesday that it was still reviewing the document with an attorney. 

"We are confident that our actions are consistent with every authority and responsibility of the Patriots Point Development Authority and are both prudent and necessary," the statement said.  

In its spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, the S.C. Legislature is considering a plan to strip the submarine of all pollutants and sink it somewhere off the South Carolina coastline. 

The plans also called for a memorial to be created with pieces from the submarine. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources would help select the place where the 74-year-old sub would be sunk. 

The Senate is considering a plan that would put $1.7 million toward the project, and the S.C. House had previously put the cost at $2.7 million. The actual amount allocated in the budget will be determined by a committee. 

The plans are still being debated. In the meantime, the Clamagore is still docked at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant and open for visitors to tour. 

Mac Burdette, the executive director at Patriots Point, has said that the submarine has become too costly for the state-owned museum to keep, with repairs estimated at about $7 million. The Clamagore Restoration and Maintenance Association disagrees, saying the costs have been overstated. 

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The naval maritime museum maintains two other historic vessels: its main attraction, the Yorktown aircraft carrier, and the Laffey destroyer, both World War II-era ships.

Patriots Point officials tried for years to find a new home for the Clamagore, but other museums did not want it, they have said. 

Plans had been in place to send the vessel to Florida where the Key West-based company Artificial Reefs International would sink it to create a diving reef and underwater museum. 

Palm Beach County officials pledged funds to the project, but Artificial Reefs never raised enough money for its share. Its contract with Patriots Point expired earlier this year. 

Many Navy veterans have strongly opposed the idea of sinking the vessel, which is the only one of its kind preserved in the U.S. 

Nicknamed the "Grey Ghost," the sub served for 30 years and has been named a National Landmark. It has been part of Patriots Point's display fleet since 1981. 

Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

Emily Williams is a business reporter at The Post and Courier, covering tourism and employment. She also writes the Business Headlines newsletter, which is published twice a week. Before moving to Charleston, her byline appeared in The Boston Globe.