18,000 Tons of Concrete and Limestone Are About to Become One of the Largest Artificial Reefs in the World

by Owen James Burke


Above: Concrete culverts being prepared for their new life. Photo: Houston Chronicle

Artificial reefs — be they retired NYC subway cars, ghost ships or military tanks — may be controversial in some circles, but the fact is that they’re working. Really, really well. So well, that is, that 18,000 tons of concrete and limestone are being prepared for the Gulf of Mexico off Florida to build one of the world’s largest artificial reef projects yet, thanks in large part to a British Petroleum settlement.

The 18,000 tons of concrete and limestone culverts will be divided into 6 groupings of 36 reefs, which organizers believe will be the largest of its kind in the western hemisphere.


A goliath grouper lurks behind a coral- and algae-lathed portion of the USS Oriskany artificial reef. Photo: Denise Byrne Johnson/Dayo Scuba

It’s unclear, however, whether the new reef will surpass the size of the USS Oriskany, an Essex-class WWII aircraft carrier that was scuttled off Florida in 2004. Today, it boats a flourishing reef system and has since been dubbed “The Great Carrier Reef,” and is considered to be a world-class dive site. Some experts estimate it to be the largest artificial reef in the world.

One thing is for sure, says Peter Flood, the Florida attorney who developed the idea for the new reef, “We are gonna have a lot of fish now.” Between fishing and diving tourism, the project is expected to infuse Florida’s economy with a whopping $30 million annually.

Funding comes from BP reparations for the 2011 Deepwater Horizon disaster, though supplemental private donations were still required for the $1.5-billion-dollar-plus project to begin.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for Florida’s newest reef is to be held on January 8th, 2015, and the installation is to commence on the following day.


Above: “The Silent Evolution” between Cancun and Isla Mujeres, Mexico, by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor consists of 450 such sculptures, which were completed in 2010 and are now so covered with life that they’re almost unrecognizable. Photo: Jorge Silva/Reuters

This is not the only large artificial reef project currently being undertaken in the Gulf; Quintana Roo, Mexico is looking to add a 10,000-ton concrete reef to its collection of artificial substrates — some of the more exemplary efforts in new habitat creation as of late, thanks to Jason deCaires Taylor and his underwater sculptures. His latest, the world’s largest underwater sculpture, was just installed off Nassau in the Bahamas.

The Community Foundation of Collier County is accepting donations from anyone who wants to contribute to the project. Figures requested start as low as $25 and run all the way up to $100,000, which is enough to fund a large reef section which would bear the donor’s name.

Read more at the Houston Chronicle — OJB

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