Supports Governor Cuomo's Expansion of State's Artificial Reef Network and Helps Build Stronger, More Diverse Marine Ecosystem
Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement Available for Public Review and Comment through Feb. 21, 2020
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the release of a proposal that will help shape the future management of the state's successful artificial reef program. The draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) helps assess and evaluate the continued use of existing offshore artificial reef sites, the expansion of some existing reef sites, and the development of new reef sites as proposed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in his 2020 State of the State Address.
"When complete, the Generic Environmental Impact Statement will create a blueprint for our marine fisheries program that serves an integral role in New York's fisheries management," said Commissioner Seggos. "Governor Cuomo recognizes the benefits artificial reefs provide for anglers, divers, and in the enhancement of New York's fishery resources. Through the Restore Mother Nature Initiative, New York continues to demonstrate the State's commitment to the ongoing success of the largest reef expansion in state history. Reefs provide habitat for fish species ranging from fluke to cod, all of which contribute to the success of New York's commercial and recreational anglers and the ongoing expansion of opportunities for regional tourism."
In the 2020 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo unveiled the new Restore Mother Nature initiative and committed to doubling New York's existing reef acreage by expanding seven existing sites and creating four new artificial reefs in Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. This expansion will be complete by 2022, resulting in an even stronger and more diverse marine ecosystem. Restore Mother Nature will be the nation's most aggressive program for habitat restoration and flood reduction, funded in part by a proposed $3 billion Environmental Bond Act.
DEC's Artificial Reef Program manages 12 artificial reef sites in New York State-two reefs in the Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay, and eight artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean-that stretch from Rockaway to Shinnecock on the south shore and from Matinecock to Smithtown on the north shore. Governor Cuomo's Artificial Reef Initiative, launched in 2018, is deploying large volumes of cleaned, recycled, and out-of-use materials from state agencies onto reef sites, including old Tappan Zee Bridge materials, former Canal Corporation vessels, retired Canal lock miter gates and lift bridge, retired New York Power Authority turbines, and former materials from the State Department of Transportation, among other materials. In November, the Governor announced the final materials deployment for 2019, resulting in a total of 87 successful new patch reefs created over two years.
The state's artificial reefs are built out of hard, durable structures such as rock, concrete, and steel, usually in the form of surplus or scrap materials (e.g. vessels, dredge rock, and military vehicles, etc.). All harmful substances are removed from the material before it is deployed on the reef sites. As quickly as the material settles on the sea floor, the reef structure begins to fill with marine life. Fish like blackfish, black sea bass, scup, fluke, hake, and cod move in to check out the new structure. Lobsters and crabs take up residence, and encrusting organisms like barnacles, sponges, anemones, corals, and mussels cling to and cover the material. Over time, the structure teems with sea life, creating a habitat similar to a natural reef.
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 the Governor's initiative, supporting the region's growing marine economy which accounts for approximately 9.7 percent of Long Island's total GDP.
In 1993, DEC completed a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and Artificial Reef Plan, allowing for the State and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits to develop artificial reef sites through the placement of materials that meet program goals and objectives outlined in the GEIS. Funded through New York's Environmental Protection Fund, the SGEIS will update the existing GEIS to address advances in science and expertise surrounding artificial reef development since 1993.
The Draft SGEIS is available for review through DEC's Artificial Reef webpage. Public hearings will be held on February 6, 2020, at 6 p.m. at the Freeport Public Library, 144 West Merrick Road, Freeport, and on February 10, 2020, at 6 p.m. at DEC's Marine Resources Headquarters, 205 North Belle Mead Road, East Setauket.
DEC encourages the public to provide comments on the draft SGEIS. Comments should be submitted by email to: ArtificialReefs (reference "Reef Program Draft SGEIS" in the subject of the email) or by mail to Christopher LaPorta, NYSDEC 205 N Belle Mead Road, Suite 1, East Setauket, NY 11733. Comments will be accepted through February 21, 2020.
Artificial reef construction is part of Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting, 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 about DEC's Artificial Reef Program visit DEC's website.