Ongoing Effort is Creating Largest Artificial Reef Expansion in State History and Helping Spur Long Island's Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Economy
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that the state's Artificial Reef Program recently deployed additional parts of the old Mill Basin Drawbridge on the Hempstead Reef to enrich local habitat as part of the Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's ongoing initiative to develop a stronger, more diverse marine ecosystem and provide shelter for fish and other marine life off New York's shores.
"This newest addition of Mill Basin Drawbridge materials will provide plentiful habitat for countless species along the Hempstead Reef and increase recreational opportunities for the region's sportfishing and diving industries," said Commissioner Seggos. "The continued deployments of recycled bridge materials further support Governor Cuomo's initiative to expand the state's Artificial Reef Program and boost the economies of New York's coastal communities."
The original Mill Basin Drawbridge was opened in 1940 as part of the Shore (Belt) Parkway bridge span system that once crossed Mill Basin in Brooklyn. Last month, DEC deployed 2.2 million pounds of the decommissioned drawbridge buildings, bridge support concrete, and concrete barriers on the Hempstead Reef - a 744-acre ecosystem with depths of up to 72 feet located three nautical miles off Long Island's South Shore. Yesterday, DEC's Artificial Reef Program deployed an additional 2.3 million pounds of materials, including the former drawbridge's gatehouse building, Pier 7, bridge support concrete, and barriers to further enhance Hempstead Reef's marine habitat - bringing the total for Mill Basin Drawbridge materials to 4.5 million pounds.
Other materials were deployed on Hempstead Reef in August 2018 as part of Governor Cuomo's Artificial Reef Initiative, including two decommissioned Erie Canal vessels at 115 and 75 feet respectively, two large New York Power Authority turbine runners totaling 140 tons, as well as four DOT bridge trusses and former Tappan Zee Bridge material consisting of concrete decking, bridge supports and pipe piles. In December 2018, parts of the old City Island Bridge in the Bronx were also deployed on the Hempstead Reef.
Governor Cuomo's unprecedented Artificial Reef Initiative has deployed large volumes of recycled materials that have been cleaned of contaminants from the New York State Thruway Authority (old Tappan Zee Bridge), New York Canal Corporation/New York Power Authority (Erie Canal vessels and two turbines), New York State Department of Transportation (steel trusses, pipes, and rock), and New York City Department of Transportation (parts of the City Island Bridge) onto New York reef sites last year. DEC manages the state's 12 artificial reefs, which include two reefs in Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay, and eight in the Atlantic Ocean.
In May 2018, the Governor announced the inaugural deployment at Shinnecock Reef. Deployments were also made on Smithtown, Rockaway, Moriches and Fire Island Reefs in 2018.
The major benefits of constructing New York's artificial reefs include improving the existing habitats in order to increase local marine biodiversity, stimulating more productive and diverse aquatic ecosystems, and promoting environmental sustainability through fish habitat improvement. Concrete and steel surplus bridge materials have proven to be both stable and durable reef building material while providing shelter and forage opportunities for finfish and crustaceans who inhabit such underwater structures such as tautog, fluke, black sea bass, scup, and lobsters.
DEC's Artificial Reef Program is popular with many local fishermen and divers and helps to support the local Long Island economy. Additional patch reef creation through material deployments will increase the use and enjoyment of these valuable New York State resources. Anglers and divers who access the New York 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.
New York's marine resources are critical to the state's economy, supporting nearly 350,000 jobs and generating billions of dollars through tourism, fishing and other industries. More than 500,000 anglers in the region will reap the benefits of this new initiative, supporting the region's growing marine economy which accounts for approximately 9.7 percent of Long Island's total GDP.
All who fish in New York State marine waters are required to enroll in the New York Recreational Marine Fishing Registry. The Registry provides important information for setting quotas, size and bag limits, and fishing seasons each year. More information on the Registry can be found on the DEC website or by contacting DEC's Marine Fishing Access Unit at (631) 444-0438.
Reef construction is part of Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, an effort to improve recreational activities for in-state and out-of-state sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. For more information on this initiative, go to Governor's press release page. For more information about DEC's Artificial Reef Program visit DEC's website.