On April 17, 2018, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the largest expansion of artificial reefs in the state’s history. The goal is to restore New York’s diverse marine life and thus boost Long Island’s recreational and sport fishing industries.
In New York’s first ever, comprehensive program to construct artificial reefs, the Governor has launched an initiative to deploy materials including tug boats, barges, and scows, as well as concrete and clean, recycled materials from the demolition of the former Tappan Zee Bridge. These materials will support the development of six artificial reefs on Long Island at sites off the shores of Smithtown, Shinnecock, Moriches, Fire Island, Hempstead, and Rockaway.
Launched during Earth Week, this initiative builds on the Governor’s record $300 million Environmental Protection Fund investment, $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act, more than $2 million NY Sea Grant program to mitigate Long Island brown tide, and actions taken to ban off-shore drilling along New York’s coastline.
“The sustainability and health of New York’s marine resources is critical to communities along our shores, and by constructing these reef habitats, we are investing in a stronger more diverse marine ecosystem,” Governor Cuomo said.
“As the largest artificial reef construction program in state history, these efforts will increase New York’s marine biodiversity, provide new habitats for a variety of coral and fish, and support a growing tourism industry that brings thousands of anglers and travelers to Long Island’s pristine waters every year,” he continued.
At the Governor’s direction, and with unprecedented, multi-agency coordination, recycled materials from the Department of Transportation, Canal Corporation, and the Thruway Authority will be used to develop New York’s artificial reef sites and increase the biodiversity of these habitats for a variety of fish and lobsters. Construction of New York’s first artificial reef dates back to 1949, and this latest initiative marks the state’s first coordinated effort to stimulate the full environmental and economic benefits of artificial reefs.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (whose work we’ve featured twice in REVITALIZATION, here and here) said, “The Governor has been with us for every challenge we have faced, from infrastructure to water quality to providing the resources we need in order to improve our Long Island communities, and this announcement continues the state’s commitment to protect New York’s natural assets. Governor Cuomo’s commitment to build up our artificial reefs will provide new habitats for fish species, helping them grow in numbers and provide Long Island’s booming recreational and sport fishing industries even more to look forward to. I thank all state agencies involved in developing these reefs and look forward to the economic benefits this initiative will bring to our communities.”
New York’s marine resources are critical to the state’s economy, supporting nearly 350,000 jobs and generating billions of dollars through tourism, fishing and other industries. More than 500,000 anglers in the region will reap the benefits of this new initiative, supporting the region’s growing marine economy which accounts for approximately 9.7 percent of Long Island’s total GDP.
Beginning in May, state agencies will start to deploy 33 barges of Tappan Zee Bridge recycled materials and 30 vessels that have been cleaned of all contaminants. A total of 43,200 cubic yards of recycled Tappan Zee Bridge material, 338 cubic yards of steel pipe from DOT, and 5,900 cubic yards of jetty rock will be submerged and added to six reef sites as part of the first phase of this initiative.
The six artificial reefs that will be developed include:
Three canal vessels and one barge of steel will be deployed to expand the artificial reef between June 8-15. The 3-acre reef is located 1.6 nautical miles from shore with a depth of 38-40 feet.
One barge of the Tappan Zee Bridge material, one barge of steel pipes and two canal vessels will be deployed to expand the artificial reef beginning Wednesday, May 2. The 35-acre reef is located 2 nautical miles from shore with a depth of 79-84 feet.
Two barges of Tappan Zee Bridge material and two canal vessels will be deployed in July and August to expand the artificial reef. The 14-acre reef is located 2.4 nautical miles from shore with a depth of 70-75 feet.
Fire Island Reef
Ten barges of Tappan Zee Bridge material, 11 canal vessels, one barge of steel and four barges of jetty rock will be deployed to expand the artificial reef between June 26-28. The 744-acre reef is located 2 nautical miles from shore with a depth of 62-73 feet.
Twelve barges of Tappan Zee Bridge material and 11 canal vessels will be deployed in July and August to expand the artificial reef. The 744-acre reef is located 3.3 nautical miles from shore with a depth of 50-72 feet.
One barge of Tappan Zee Bridge material will be deployed in July and August to expand the artificial reef. The 413-acre reef is located 1.6 nautical miles from shore with a depth of 32-40 feet.
DEC manages New York’s Artificial Reef Program, which includes two reefs in the Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay, and eight artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean. The major benefits of constructing New York’s artificial reefs include improving the existing habitats in order to increase local marine biodiversity, stimulating more productive and diverse aquatic ecosystems, and promoting environmental sustainability through fish habitat improvement.
The reefs are built out of hard, durable structures such as rock, concrete, and steel pipes, and usually in the form of surplus or scrap materials that are cleaned of contaminants. After materials and vessels settle to the sea floor, larger fish like blackfish, cod, and striped bass move in to build habitats within the new structures, and encrusting organisms such as barnacles, sponges, anemones, corals, and mussels cling to and cover the material. Over time, all these structures will create habitat similar to a natural reef.
Artificial reef construction is part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, an effort to improve recreational activities for in-state and out-of-state sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. For more information about DEC’s Artificial Reef Program visit DEC’s website here.
The announcement was met with enthusiasm by environmental officials and representatives of the affected coastal areas:
Bill Ulfelder, Executive Director for The Nature Conservancy in New York said, “The Nature Conservancy applauds Governor Cuomo’s announcement of work to expand artificial reefs off Long Island. The reefs benefit marine life, hook and line fisherman, and the fishing and recreation economies. On Long Island and across New York our economy, health, and way of life all depend on nature. Like other initiatives recently announced by Governor Cuomo aimed at improving water quality and revitalizing shellfish and ocean life, today’s announcement is a win for New York’s fishermen, coastal communities and oceans.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Governor Cuomo recognizes that expanding Long Island’s artificial reefs will bolster the economies of our fisheries. This is a wonderful and innovative way to reuse materials from state infrastructure projects. Our communities, anglers, and environment all stand to benefit from this effort and the State’s expanded Artificial Reef Program.”
Senator Tom F. O’Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee said, “From environmental conservation to transportation infrastructure, New York State is leading the way on putting existing materials back into use in creative, cost-effective, innovative and effective ways.”
Assemblyman Steven Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee said, “I am thrilled to see that the cleaned and inspected materials from the Tappan Zee Bridge and other old infrastructure are going to be repurposed for such a great project. Artificial reefs provide incredible opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t exist such as research, diving, and angling. They also create habitats that foster vibrant, diverse ecosystems. This is a great example of upcycling and I look forward to seeing the results of it.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, “Long Island’s legendary fishing industry is world renowned. With the addition of these clean, recycled materials, the artificial reefs off our shores will develop into larger habitats and help our marine life diversify and grow. I thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing the opportunity to expand these aquatic environments and am thrilled to welcome more visitors to Long Island’s coastal communities for years to come.”
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said, “Under the Governor’s leadership, we have seen Long Island’s tourism and fishing industries steadily grow year after year, and this latest initiative is sure to boost our local economies and attract even more anglers and travelers to our communities. I look forward to having these recycled materials lowered into our waters, as they develop into new and expanded reefs, and help increase the biodiversity of our environment for years to come.”
Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said, “I thank the Governor for investing in our water quality and committing resources to construct our reef into an even larger underwater environment. This initiative is exactly the kind of investment our artificial reefs need to develop, grow and increase Long Island’s marine biodiversity. We look forward to even more successful fishing experiences for everyone.”
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine said, “This project announced by Gov. Cuomo today is a positive step towards protecting our shoreline and improving fish habitat. By creating this artificial reef, wave action will be broken up, protecting our shoreline from erosion during major storm events. The reef will also attract fish to this new protective environment, increasing their population and helping our recreational fishing industry.”
Ocean Beach Mayor James S. Mallott said, “Our beautiful waters, and the plethora of fish available for sport and recreation fishing, attract thousands of anglers to Long Island every year. I applaud Governor Cuomo and our state agencies for working together to clean and recycle materials that will help construct and develop artificial reefs off our shore. This new initiative will entice even more visitors to our community and we look forward to welcoming outdoor enthusiasts of all ages for generations to come.”
Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said, “Our oceans, fisheries and healthy estuaries are at the heart of our maritime culture. Restoration efforts and programs to increase biodiversity such as this are invaluable to life on Long Island, our sustainability and our future. CCE applauds the Governor for his focus and commitment to our marine environment.”
New York Sportfishing Federation President Capt. Joe Paradiso said, “The New York Sportfishing Federation applauds Governor Cuomo for his efforts in reinvigorating the artificial reef program here in the New York Marine District. This initiative will replenish and restore our existing reefs, a long overdue need, benefiting our recreational anglers as well as improving the ecosystems that these reefs support. We hope the success of this ‘first step’ will lead to the creation of new artificial reefs in the future, further increasing biodiversity and fishing access for NY’s anglers.”
Rocket Charters President and New York’s Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Representative, Capt. Tony DiLernia said, “The marine environment is harsh and our artificial reefs collapse with time. To remain productive, the reefs must have materials added to them every few years. Recent administrations, prior to Governor Cuomo’s, were unable to find ways to address New York’s crumbling artificial reefs. The announcement to grow and add to the artificial reefs surrounding Long Island is another example of Governor Cuomo’s desire to create as many opportunities as possible for our fishermen. By adding to these reefs, the amount of fish available will increase and family fishing outings will be successful.”
Photo of artificial reef in the Red Sea via Ben Gurion University of the Negev.