Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to develop artificial reefs by using recycled and repurposed construction materials, including parts of the old Tappan Zee Bridge, to preserve the environment, boost recreational fishing revenue and provide new habitats for fish and other marine species.
Cuomo’s new initiative is to eventually build 12 artificial reefs off the coasts of Long Island, beginning with six sites this year, with construction beginning this month.
A similar program was started in 1993, but was never fully developed.
“Now obviously to build a reef takes 450 approvals from everyone and their cousin,” Cuomo said. “This has been done for decades all over the world and all over the country. New York has just been slow to do it. The idea is a no brainer, it’s just getting it done that is the problem.”
Of the first six sites being developed, five of the locations are on the South Shore and one is on the North Shore. The six sites include Shinnecock, Moriches, Fire Island, Hempstead, Rockaway and Smithtown.
At these six sites, “path reef design” would be utilized, which would create smaller, isolated reef patches that are supported by the sandy bottom. The path reef design leaves sandy soil between the material so it’s not just one cluster of material.
The artificial reef materials will consist of 30 decommissioned vessels, 43,200 cubic yards of the Tappan Zee Bridge, 338 cubic yards of steel pipe and 5,900 cubic yards of jetty rock.
Using a combination of the approved materials would enhance existing habitats, promote biodiversity and ensure habitats continue to thrive, the governor said. In May, the state will begin deploying 33 barges of material, as well as 30 vessels to be submerged at the reef sites on Long Island.
In announcing the plan at the Sunken Meadows State Park last month, Cuomo said the structures will instantly swarm with sea life once the material settles on the seafloor, creating a habitat very similar to a natural reef.
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.
“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,” said New York Sportfishing Federation President Joe Paradiso. “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 New York’s anglers.”
Opportunistic colonizing organisms such as anemones, sponges and mussels, which are attracted to stable surfaces of attachment, will begin to occupy the new reef. Lobsters and crabs will take advantage of the shelter and feeding opportunity made available by the new habitat. Larger marine species such as sharks, dolphins and blue fish will visit the reef for additional feeding opportunities.
“When you think this is something we are leaving for our children, then every cell in your body says we have to leave it better than we found it,” Cuomo said. “We are stewards for a brief period of time on this earth then we hand it off to the next generation. And our responsibility is to hand if off better and we will.”
According to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Long Island is grateful for all Cuomo has done to help preserve parks and natural resources.
“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,” said Bellone.