With help from the S.C. Army National Guard, artificial reefs along South Carolina’s coast continue to flourish.
For the 11th consecutive year, the S.C. Army National Guard has partnered with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to donate surplus materials to the Marine Artificial Reef program, a collaborative project known as Reef-Ex.
See video of past artificial reef deployment>>>
The partnership has grown since its origination in 1997, and to date uses demilitarized equipment from the S.C. Army National Guard, such as armored personnel carriers, concrete culvert, shipping containers and combat engineering vehicles, to build onto existing artificial reefs. The donated materials, once stripped and cleaned, are deployed and sunk onto many of the DNR maintained reef sites. Since the project began, one-third of all artificial reef offshore deployments have been directly associated with the Reef-Ex material provided by the S.C. Army National Guard.
The materials used along the reefs provide suitable habitat for numerous marine organisms, which flourish to 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. Marine species of interest to anglers and divers are attracted to these reef sites, offering recreational opportunities for many interests.
According to Adjutant Gen. Stan Spears with the S.C. Army National Guard, "The Department of Defense, nationwide, has over 20,000 pieces of out of date, surplus equipment which are difficult to store.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."
For the S.C. Army National Guard, the project offers an effective way to reuse their surplus equipment. This type of surplus equipment, which is often difficult to store, provides great structures for placing along the reef sites. This year’s Reef-Ex project deployed more than 60 demilitarized armored personnel carriers and 2,000 pieces of concrete culvert pipe to the Fripp Island, Hunting Island and Pawley’s Island reef sites. According to Bob Martore, DNR Artificial Reef Program coordinator, "The recent reef deployments will provide excellent habitat for a lot of different organisms. The larger fish that anglers target really seem to like the open, cave-like space that the APC’s provide. We’ve had tremendous success with them on other reef sites."
The Fripp Island Reef is located around 6 nautical miles from Fripp Inlet, in water depths of 45 feet. This year’s Reef-Ex deployments will build onto habitat already consisting of concrete reef balls and deck barges. The Hunting Island Reef site is about 8.5 nautical miles from Fripp Inlet, and lies at a depth of 50 feet. Prior to this year’s Reef-Ex donation, the site was composed of hopper barges, landing crafts, concrete cones and shipping containers. The third reef to receive Reef-Ex contributions this year, the Pawley’s Island Reef, lies 5.5 nautical miles from the south jetty at Murrells Inlet in water depths of 35 feet. In addition to the recent deployments, this reef contains landing crafts, concrete cones and a tugboat.
The timeline of Reef-Ex accomplishments began in 1997 with the placement of 56 obsolete S.C. Army National Guard armored vehicles, including 14 M60 battle tanks, 38 M113 armored personnel carriers and four combat engineering vehicles along four 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 more than 24 artificial reef sites with substrate materials donated by the S.C. Army National Guard.
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.
Coordinates for reefs receiving Reef-Ex materials in 2007:
DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.