Natural Resource Damage Assessment Early Restoration Phase III – Northwest Florida Artificial Reef Creation and Restoration Project
The intent of this Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration Phase III, Florida Artificial Reef Creation and Restoration project is to provide enhanced or additional long-term recreational opportunities through construction and restoration of artificial reefs.
In response to a request for project proposals from each of the counties affected by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, the State of Florida Trustees, represented jointly by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), received offshore marine artificial reef construction proposals from six Northwest Florida municipalities: Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Bay Counties and the City of Mexico Beach. The individual Northwest Florida Artificial Reef proposals were combined and on May 6, 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a public notice in the Federal Register on behalf of the Trustees announcing the development of the Phase III Early Restoration Plan / Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (ERP). This combined Northwest Florida artificial reef project was submitted as an Early Restoration project as part of the phase III ERP on the NOAA website and submitted to the State of Florida.
This project includes the deployment of an anticipated 3,000 or more prefabricated artificial reefs across the project area within 48 permitted areas located in state waters (Figure 1). The total estimated cost for this project is $11,463,587 making it one of the largest, artificial reef construction project in the history of Florida’s artificial reef program.
The reefs that will be deployed will consist of a combination of the following five approved, general designs:
- Small Tetrahedron Reef: 6-8 ft. tall, 10 ton (maximum) hollow concrete walled structure with three or more sides. The unit shall have a solid bottom or an opening greater than 36 in. in diameter at the top to prohibit turtle entrapment.
- Concrete Disk Reef: 8ft tall (maximum), three or more rock or shell embedded concrete layers are mounted on the piling with at least four (4) inches separating each layer.
- Large Tetrahedron Reef: 18 ft. tall (maximum), 18 ton (maximum) hollow concrete walled structure with three or more sides. This unit is a larger version of the original small tetrahedron described above. Like the smaller tetrahedron, the unit shall have a solid bottom or an opening greater than 36 in. in diameter at the top to prohibit turtle entrapment.
- Ledge and Disk Reef: 6-8 ft. tall, 4 ton (maximum) concrete hollow base structure, with at least one side almost entirely open (opening at least 36 in. wide and two feet high to prohibit turtle entrapment). The unit shall have a vertical reef (multiple rock and concrete disks/ledges set on a post-similar to the concrete disk reef concept) attached to the top to obtain the minimum height requirement of five feet.
- Large Dome Reef: 6-8 ft. tall, 7 ton (maximum) concrete structures in the shape of a dome with a solid base and multiple small holes throughout the structure. There will be a turtle escape opening created at the top of the structure that must be greater than 36 in. in diameter.
In addition to activities associated with the construction and deployment of the prefabricated artificial reef modules, there are a number of monitoring activities that are required such as pre-construction surveys for natural bottom or historical resources. Post-construction monitoring surveys are also required to observe marine organisms as well as to document and measure physical changes to the reef over time. Additionally, human-use monitoring is required after the reefs have been deployed. This provides the artificial reef program with a unique opportunity to quantify how many people are utilizing the artificial reefs. A number of potential methods have been proposed including aerial surveys , mail/email surveys like the Gulf Reef Fish Survey, point-count surveys and even the utilization of technologies such as acoustic listening devices to listen for boat engines.