Last fall I had the pleasure to introduce a guest speaker at the Marco Island Historical Society regarding the artificial reef project here in Collier County. City of Naples, Natural Resources Department Environmental Specialist Katie Laakonen gave a great presentation explaining the inception of the project, continuing to the most current information at that time. I’ve just received an update regarding recent results and schedules.
As a review, in January of 2015 the first deployment of a series of artificial reefs was made in Collier County waters. There was a tremendous effort and a great amount of time expelled, nearly three years, to bring this program to fruition. Planning the type of materials to be used and the location of each site took careful planning. In addition, each potential reef site had to be physically viewed and approved.
Katie Laakonen was not only a member of an elite planning team but she physically dove many of the sites to test for proper soil contentand that the base would be strong and suitable for a new reef.
Initially 36 individual reefs were scheduled for deployment in our waters. All are now in place. Each reef is made of concrete and stone and weighs about 500 tons. That’s a potential 18,000 tons of concrete that are not in our landfills. Also, more than 100 artificial reef modules (prefabricated concrete pyramids) have been placed in the water as part of the overall project. Modules like these have been utilized around the globe and have been quite successful.
Additional reef modules will be deployed in the near future to create an underwater art piece in the shape of a turtle and will be designed by internationally acclaimed artist and innovator Vito Di- Bari. Private donations have funded the reef modules. The exact site for some of the structures has not yet been selected nor is there a firm date at this time.
The final naming rights for each location have been soldand are now firmly established. The project itself was funded with a mix of grant funds and private donations. No taxpayer funds were used.
The entire project was made possible by partnerships among the City of Naples, City of Marco Island, Collier County, the Economic Recovery Task Force, several other agencies and many, many volunteers.
The GPS coordinates for the reef locations can be found at www.cfcollier.org.
A documentary film, “Paradise Reef,” which follows the story of the reef system was recently awarded a Suncoast Emmy. You can find this video on www.video. wgcu.org.
Many people are utilizing the structures for fishing and diving. As the reefs and modules continue to grow vegetation it appears likely that even more people will be visiting our area to explore this magnificent addition to enjoy the marine life that we call home.
Bob is the owner of Stepping Stone Ecotours and a Naturalist on board the dolphin survey boat Dolphin Explorer. Bob loves his wife very much! File Photos