With artificial reefs, loving that sinking feeling

Splashdown: A recycled chunk of the old Tappan Zee Bridge finds a new purpose at the Hempstead Reef.

A 744-acre site located three nautical miles off Long Island’s South Shore will become a haven for all manners of aquatic life, thanks to the deployment of recycled materials.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced the deployment of materials to create a new marine habitat at Hempstead Reef, which is now part of the largest artificial-reef expansion in state history – and part of Albany’s ongoing efforts to develop a more diverse marine ecosystem that provides shelter for fish and other marine life off New York’s coast, along with new economic opportunities for landlubbers.

Gov. Cuomo: Good reef.

Citing a boon for offshore industries including fishing and boating, Cuomo – on the Island Friday, and sailing off it, to salute the dumping of the new reef materials – hailed a development that will “drive foot traffic to local businesses and fuel the success of the entire region.”

“The deployment of materials at Hempstead Reef will enhance the aquatic ecosystem along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, provide new habitats for marine life and expand recreational opportunities for generations of New Yorkers,” the governor added.

Recycled materials from the New York State Department of Transportation, the NYS Canal Corp. and the State Thruway Authority are being used to develop New York’s artificial reef sites, which now include Hempstead Reef.

Specific materials deployed Friday include two decommissioned boats (measuring 75 and 115 feet), components from two New York Power Authority turbines (totaling 140 tons), four DOT bridge trusses and loads of debris from the former Tappan Zee Bridge, including concrete decking and pipe piles.

Under used: A decommissioned 115-foot barge is lowered into the water Friday.

What sounds like so much garbage actually makes for wonderful artificial reefs, which give fish and other marine animals nesting and hunting grounds. In addition to energizing commercial fishing and other onshore and offshore industries, the creation of artificial reefs – which dates back to 1949 in New York State – increases the biodiversity of a variety of fish and crustacea, which “promotes environmental sustainability,” according to the governor’s office.

Friday’s deployment follows a similar deployment in July at Smithtown Reef. More information on Albany’s artificial reef initiative is available here.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos commended “a visionary plan that will create a healthier, more vibrant and diverse aquatic ecosystem while bolstering the economies of Long Island’s coastal communities.”

“It’s a progressive initiative that will benefit fish and fishermen alike,” Seggos said in a statement. “And the latest example of the governor’s recognition that our environment and economy are inextricably linked.”


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