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#06-267 October 2, 2006  

Reef-Ex Project continues DNR/National Guard partnership

2006 marks the tenth year for the collaborative efforts between the SC Army National Guard and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to refurbish artificial reefs.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Artificial Reef Program Reef-Ex project was established in 1997 and continues to work to build and enhance artificial reefs off of the SouthSCUBA diver Carolina coast. Surplus materials that the SC Army National Guard has provided to the program include armored vehicles and personnel carriers, combat engineering vehicles, fuel barges, shipping containers, submarine camels and concrete culvert. These materials, once demilitarized, stripped and cleaned, are deployed and sunk on many of the DNR maintained offshore artificial reef sites.  The structures provide an ideal habitat for a plethora of marine organisms, which flourish and become the foundation for a thriving reef community. Organisms such as crabs, shrimp, sea urchins, as well as a variety of fish species are attracted to the structures for shelter and food.

The DNR Artificial Reef program maintains 45 reef sites in estuarine, coastal and offshore waters.  The sites are marked with yellow buoys to assist boaters in locating and using artificial reefs.  For artificial reef locations and more information on the DNR’s Artificial Reef Program, visit http://saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/artificialreef.html

According to Adjutant General Stan Spears with the SC Army National Guard, “The Department of Defense, nationwide, has over 20,000 pieces of out of date, surplus equipment which are difficult to store.  Because the armor in personnel carriers can be several inches thick, it’s difficult for scrap metal users to cut them up and many times these pieces of equipment are just stored. This is a great, environmentally friendly alternate use for the equipment.  It’s a win-win situation for the South Carolina Military Department, the state fishing and wildlife habitats, and the waters of the Palmetto State coastline.”

This year’s Reef-Ex project will place 35 demilitarized armored personnel carriers on the Jim Caudle Reef, located 3 miles off of Little River Inlet.  According to Bob Martore, DNR Artificial Reef Program Coordinator, “The armored personnel carriers that the Guard provided this year will make outstanding reef habitat for a lot of different species. Recreational enthusiasts in this area will be able to fish and dive on these structures for decades to come.” Currently, the Jim Caudle Reef consists of deck barges, bulk tankers and concrete material. The new additions will add over 25,000 cubic feet of habitat to the Jim Caudle Reef.

During previous years, the Reef-Ex project has inventoried 212 armored vehicles, 244 shipping containers, and approximately 35,000 tons of concrete to construct over 650,000 cubic feet of new reef habitat.  Since the project’s inception, one-third of all artificial reef offshore deployments have been directly associated with the Reef-Ex material provided by the SC Army National Guard.

“We’re very excited to continue our partnership with the South Carolina Army National Guard,” Martore said. “Over the years they have provided some of the most interesting and effective reef material that we have.  Expanding the partnership this year to include a local fishing group, especially one as active and involved as the Jim Caudle Reef Foundation, really brings a lot of support to this joint reef-building program,” noted Martore.

The timeline of Reef-Ex accomplishments, at a glance, began in 1997 with the placement of 56 obsolete SC Army National Guard armored vehicles, including 14 M60 battle tanks, 38 M113 armored personnel carriers and 4 combat engineering vehicles along 4 reef sites off the coast of Beaufort.  In 1998, 52 M113 armored personnel carriers were deployed along two artificial reefs off of Charleston, and the following year, five reef sites off of Georgetown and Horry counties received the surplus materials. The Reef-Ex project has steadily gained momentum, and since 2000, has enhanced over 24 artificial reef sites with substrate materials donated by the SC Army National Guard.

See video of steel shipping containers and culvert pipe deployed to enhance marine artificial reef sites off South Carolina's coast>>>

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