BRUNSWICK — The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division has created new fish habitat at Artificial Reef A near Cumberland Island using surplus concrete, thanks to help from several businesses and local fishing clubs.
"Back in the winter, Georgia Power and their business partner, Valmont-Newmark, approached us with an innovative idea for reef material" said Jeff Mericle, artificial reef coordinator for CRD. "They had a large quantity of concrete utility poles like those commonly seen along our highways stockpiled in Claxton, Ga. These poles — some weighing more than 20 tons and measuring 3 feet in diameter — were not serviceable, but would make great fish habitat. We developed a game plan to have the utility poles cut into 40-foot sections and transported to the Port of Brunswick where they would be loaded on a barge and towed offshore."
The details of material transport, loading and towing were finalized during the spring, and two barge loads of utility pole sections plus some additional surplus concrete material were deployed at Artificial Reef A, one on June 4 and one on July 1. The material was piled on the seafloor in depths of 30 or 45 feet, creating a complex three-dimensional structure. This material will quickly be covered with marine life, creating habitat that will last for hundreds of years.
Scotty Sangster, a procurement official with Georgia Power said, "During this project, we had a win-win outcome for everyone involved. The DNR enhanced a reef site at minimal cost providing new fishing and diving opportunities. Valmont-Newmark removed 25 utility poles from their storage yard and Georgia Power captured a cost savings of $7,300. Many thanks to our business partners and everyone who helped make this a huge success."
Local businesses Logistec and Full Circle Services substantially reduced the costs of their services to help make the project possible, but fixed costs were still $32,000. The DNR asked Golden Isles Kingfish Classic and the Two-Way Sportfishing Club to pay for the towing. They agreed, reducing out-of-pocket expenses by almost $10,000. The remaining costs were paid with federal aid.
"This year, the state budget for offshore artificial reefs was zeroed out. Our only other source of funding for artificial reef activities is federal aid … but it’s spread over everything from fish surveys to boat ramps to conservation education, leaving us about $50,000 to spend on reef buoys and material this year. Thanks to our many partners in the business and fishing communities who help us stretch these dollars, I’m optimistic that we can keep enhancing our artificial reefs despite budget reductions," CRD Director Spud Woodward said.
Georgia’s man-made offshore reef network is made up of 22 permitted sites ranging from three miles to 55 miles from shore. Coordinates for each two-square-mile site and the multiple deployments within each site are available on the CRD website, www.CoastalGADNR.org, or by visiting the CRD office near the Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick. For more information, call Jeff Mericle at 912-264-7218 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.