Edisto reef addition features eclectic mix of structures
Sep 15, 2021
CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. – What do a barge, a deconstructed water tower, shipping containers and a shark sculpture have in common? They’re all elements of a new addition to an artificial reef off the coast of Edisto Island.
Onlookers enjoyed low seas and an east wind yesterday as they watched a 250-foot retired barge covered in metal and concrete structures sink beneath the waves to its new home on the seafloor. Within half a year or so, marine life will begin to colonize the barge and fish will school in the area.
"The variety of structures will provide habitat for a diverse array of species," said Robert Martore, longtime head of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ (SCDNR) artificial reef program. "The open spaces of the container boxes provide a cave-like interior that larger species like snapper and grouper prefer, while the pieces of the water tower create low relief habitat that provide refuge for smaller species and juveniles."
Artificial reefs play a similar role in the ocean as coral reefs. Manmade structures that are typically placed on areas of seafloor with little natural relief, artificial reefs improve habitat and spawning grounds for fish and marine life – in turn attracting recreational divers and anglers. The environmental benefits of artificial reefs are twofold, as they recycle materials that would otherwise be destined for landfills in addition to expanding critical habitat for offshore fish.
Although SCDNR biologists have been constructing artificial reefs for over forty years, this deployment marked a particularly large project with a new partner: Mount Pleasant Waterworks. The water utility donated a water tower from the Old Village area of Mount Pleasant. Structures like this undergo a rigorous cleaning process to ensure they're safe to sink.
"Repurposing our Old Village Water Tank as an artificial reef allows us the opportunity to fulfill our mission of protecting the environment," said Mount Pleasant Waterworks General Manager Allan Clum. "We all have something at stake when it comes to water, and we're grateful for our partnership with SCDNR as we work together to protect our natural resources."
The reef addition also marked another successful project with the Coastal Conservation Association South Carolina (CCASC), which has provided support for 15 reef projects to date. CCA SC and their longtime partner Sea Hunt Boat Company donated 12 container boxes that were placed on the barge and funded half the costs of the barge itself and towing to the reef site.
Last but not least, the barge was decked out with a life-sized concrete sculpture of a white shark created by SCDNR biologists. In-house concrete structures are nothing new to the program, which has experimented with creating different shapes and sizes to benefit different fish species over the years.
"But this time, we decided to get creative and create a photo op that scuba divers would enjoy," Martore said.
About 10 nautical miles offshore, the Edisto 60’ reef (also known as PA-30) is already a well-developed artificial reef spot popular among anglers and divers. Over 20 structures have previously been deployed there, including a large ship, military vehicles, and rubble from the old Cooper River Bridge.
The location data for the Edisto 60' reef, as well as South Carolina’s many other artificial reef sites, are free to download to your marine GPS device.
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