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July 28, 2008

Subway cars enhance Murrells Inlet artificial reef

New York City retired subway cars were deployed onto the Bill Perry, Jr. Artificial Reef last week, just offshore from Murrells Inlet.

The 44 subway cars, retired from New York City Transit’s subway department as recently as one month ago, were dropped onto the offshore reef, creating a diverse habitat with suitable structures for recruiting marine life on an otherwise hard-bottom ocean floor. The subway cars began their trek from the New York City Transit facility on July 21st for the trip to the Bill Perry, Jr. reef site, located 25 nautical miles offshore from Murrells Inlet.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) has been in partnership with the New York City Transit Authority since 2001, and to-date has received 200 retired subway cars for placement onto coastal artificial reefs. According to Bob Martore, DNR’s Marine Artificial Reef Program Coordinator, "Once the subway cars are cleaned and the windows and doors are removed, they provide an economically valuable and environmentally friendly source of material for our marine artificial reefs. Our current subway car reefs are really thriving.  We’re fortunate to have this partnership in place with the New York City Transit Authority."

The New York Transit’s subway department initiated the project to provide retired subway cars to states’ artificial reef programs back in 1999. Tasked with locating the most environmentally appropriate disposal for the all of New York City Transit’s unwanted materials, coordinators turned to the US Artificial Reef Plan, which provided contacts for states’ existing artificial reef programs. The project has flourished since its inception, and currently, 1,269 retired Redbird subway cars are now resting on marine reef sites in New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, with another 1,662 designated for those states and an additional entry to the program, Maryland. The project previously provided 100 retired subway cars to states’ programs, a provision including transportation and cleaning costs. States were then eligible for acquiring additional subway cars for their respective programs, depending on availability, by paying for their transportation from New York. This year, New York Transit is providing one barge load of subway cars free of charge. This equates to 44 stainless steel subway cars, vehicles that are newer and larger than the previously used Redbird cars. 

Michael Zacchea, Assistant Chief Operations Officer with New York City Transit Authority’s Asset Recovery Division says, "New York City Transit is proud of its leadership role in environmental stewardship. We consider the use of our subway cars as artificial reef material as the ultimate form of recycling by extending the life, underwater, of these cars."

Previous deployments of retired subway cars along South Carolina reefs have taken place in Charleston at the Comanche Reef; Myrtle Beach at the BP-25 Reef; in Georgetown at the Vermillion Reef; and the Betsy Ross Reef in Hilton Head.

Once cleaned and prepared for deployment, subway cars provide suitable structure for enhancing artificial reefs. With the windows and doors removed from the cars, these durable materials offer an ideal surface for organisms such as algae, barnacles, corals and sponges. These organisms begin to colonize new artificial reef materials within days of deployment. Other marine species, such as crabs, shrimp and juvenile fish are attracted to these structures for food and shelter. Larger species of fish are also recruited to these reef areas for shelter, food, and to spawn. Because of the lack of naturally occurring hard-bottom areas along the coast of South Carolina, the creation of artificial reefs is particularly important to the development of our marine fisheries resources. Artificial reef sites also serve as resourceful locations for recreational anglers and the sport diving community.

The Bill Perry, Jr. Reef lies at water depth of 65 feet and is marked by a yellow reef buoy. Existing artificial structures currently at the site include:

The DNR Marine Artificial Reef Program maintains 45 reef sites in estuarine, coastal and offshore waters. The sites are marked with yellow buoys to assist anglers and divers in locating and using artificial reefs.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina's natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state's natural resources and its people.

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