Fishing Boats And Rail Cars: It’s What Artificial Reefs Are Made Of

Just off the coast of Georgetown, SC, a retired 65-foot fishing boat was recently sunk 50 feet underwater, where it joins a barge and nearly two dozen Army vehicles. Off the coast of Charleston, a short distance to the south, eight concrete towers of various heights have been installed on the sea floor.

Don’t confuse these with some sort of bizarre art project — they represent artificial reefs that are designed to bolster fish habitat and help prevent coastal erosion while recycling materials that would otherwise be sent to landfills.

Waters off the coast of South Carolina aren’t conducive to the coral reef growth seen in the ocean, so these artificial reefs help play the same roles. The structures are typically placed on areas of seafloor with little natural relief, improving habitat and spawning grounds for a diverse array of fish and marine life — and in turn attracting recreational divers and anglers.

Before placing these structures underwater, they are put through a rigorous cleaning process to ensure they’re safe for the environment. Once in place, it typically takes about six months for the artificial reefs to be colonized by marine organisms and become a functional fish habitat.

About 800 miles to the north, retired rail cars are the discarded product of choice for these man-made structures.

More than a dozen rail cars — part of a total batch of 75 that were donated by Wells Fargo Rail Corp. —were recently added to the Atlantic Beach Reef off the coast of Long Island, NY. The reef project, launched in 2018, is designed to improve marine life and provide a boost to Long Island’s recreational and sport fishing and diving industries.

The 413-acre Atlantic Beach Reef is located three nautical miles south of Atlantic Beach at a depth of 55 to 64 feet. One of the first reefs created in New York State, it was previously comprised of two vessels, nine barges, surplus armored vehicles, 404 auto bodies, 10 Good Humor trucks, a steel crane and boom, rock, concrete slabs, pipes, a culvert, decking, and rubble.

Materials used for the reef expansion are being strategically placed and include hard, durable structures such as rock, concrete, and steel.

To the far south, a nonprofit is partnering with the county to place more than 50 artificial reef modules of varying shapes and sizes — 88 tons of concrete in total — 40 feet under water near the Port of Palm Beach in Florida.

Reef builders and donors made the project possible.

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