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Artificial Reefs

If you build it, they will come, and I don’t mean just fish.  Florida has a very active artificial reef program, one of the most active of the Gulf and Atlantic States.  In addition to increasing reef fish habitat, artificial reefs improve recreational and charter fishing and diving opportunities, provide a socio-economic benefit to the local community, minimize user conflicts, and facilitate reef research.  34 of Florida’s 35 coastal counties are involved in some form of artificial reef development.

There is quite an elaborate process involved in constructing an artificial reef.  Each proposed artificial reef site must be permitted.  This process can take 6-9 months to complete.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) is the permitting authority for proposed reefs in federal waters, while both the ACOE and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) assume permitting responsibility in state waters.

As the permittee, Charlotte County must conduct a bottom survey of the entire area proposed for reef development to ensure that the bottom is suitable (hard sand or rock base), and without biological (seagrass, coral reef, shellfish or other hard bottom communities) or historical resources.  Under current regulations, an artificial reef’s height cannot exceed one half the total water column depth at mean low water (MLW).  The minimum allowable depth for an artificial reef in bays or estuaries is twelve feet MLW.  An artificial reef cannot exceed one quarter mile in length on a side, and cannot be located in a shipping lane.  Annual monitoring post deployment is conducted to evaluate reef stability and diversity and quantity of fish species.  Funding for artificial reef construction and monitoring can come from grants, local government support, donation, in-kind support, or any combination of these.

In the past, artificial reefs were constructed out of just about anything. Due to environmental and public safety concerns, allowable materials now focus on heavy, stable, durable and non-polluting materials.  FDEP will only allow clean concrete or rock, clean steel boat hulls, other clean, heavy gauge steel products with a thickness of ¼-inch or greater and prefabricated structures that are a mixture of clean concrete and heavy gauge steel to be used as artificial reefs in state waters.  This eliminates fiberglass hulls, cars, tires, refrigerators, and many of the other previously used materials as possible reef candidates.

Artificial Reef Locations

Economic Impact of Artificial Reefs