Story Article View

Army Corps Dredged Material Used as a Natural Resource

Published July 24, 2013
Blackfish residing on the Hempstead Reef, which is now encrusted with organisms like mussels, sponges, and anemones. (NYS DEC)

Blackfish residing on the Hempstead Reef, which is now encrusted with organisms like mussels, sponges, and anemones. (NYS DEC)

Through a partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC),  volumes of dredged rock are being deployed on one of New York's reef sites providing benefits to habitat, the environment, divers and fishermen.  The Corps and its local sponsor, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, have harbor deepening dredge projects continuing through 2014 that can yield rock material for placement on New York reef sites.

"The partnership between the Army Corps of Engineers and DEC demonstrates how agencies can work together to achieve mutually beneficial goals while reducing costs at the same time," said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens. "The dredge rock will be recycled through its removal from the New York Harbor area and placement on New York reef sites. The rock will both enhance local oceanic habitat and benefit local fishermen and divers who frequent the reefs."

Prior cooperative projects between the Corps and DEC have seen the deployment of over a half million cubic yards of dredged rock onto New York reefs. Individual rock deployments have benefitted recreational fishermen and divers through the increased number of patch reefs made available on the sites. Party-charter vessels, commercial fishermen and dive boats also benefit from the additional reef construction on New York sites.

"Dredged rock material from the Army Corps' Harbor Deepening Project is a valued natural resource that is environmentally beneficial for the construction of artificial reefs," said Col. Paul Owen, the Army Corps' New York District Commander. "The Army Corps is pleased to utilize our dredged material from our ongoing navigation improvement program in furthering the many improvements and enhancements in the New York and New Jersey Harbor Estuary, including constructing fish reefs in New York waters."

The following permitted DEC reef sites have capacity to accept rock:

Hempstead Reef

Fire Island Reef

Moriches Reef

Shinnecock Reef

The Hempstead Reef received its first load of over 5,500 cubic yards of Corps rock on May 27. The rock is being dredged from the Arthur Kill Channel deepening project. Additional deployments on the reef may happen as acceptably sized rock is dredged.

New York reef sites are strategically located near Long Island, N.Y. inlets. These locations afford opportunities for smaller recreational vessels that cannot travel to offshore destinations to fish and dive.

"The Atlantis Anglers Association recognizes and appreciates the efforts of both the NYSDEC Reef Program and the Army Corps of Engineers for reuse of the rock to build new artificial reefs that generate additional fishing opportunities for local anglers," said Reed Riemer, President of the 30 year old fishing club.

"Our members fish the artificial reefs on a consistent basis and many of the fishing awards we give out are from fish caught on the NY State artificial reefs including black sea bass, blackfish, scup, cod, fluke, triggerfish and even amberjack. These reefs provide a great habitat for so many of the fish we catch. Thank you again for supporting our local reefs with materials to help build our fish habitats."

Dredge rock has proven to be both stable and durable reef building material while providing shelter and forage opportunities for finfish and crustaceans who inhabit underwater structures. Reef structures provide valuable marine habitat for popular finfish species such as tautog, fluke, black sea bass, scup, as well as crustaceans like lobsters.

The New York Artificial Reef Program is popular with many local fishermen and divers and helps to support the local economy of Long Island also. The creation of additional patch reefs through rock deployment will increase the use and enjoyment of these valuable New York State resources. Fishermen and divers who access the artificial reefs support local businesses through the purchase of fuel, bait and tackle, marine equipment, and by using for hire party/charter and dive vessels.