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  2theadvocate > News > Cement 'reef balls' to be placed in Lake Pontchartrain 08/25/03

Cement 'reef balls' to be placed in Lake Pontchartrain

NEW ORLEANS -- Giant chunks of concrete weighing as much as 1,400 pounds and resting on shell beds about 13 to 14 feet underwater could eventually create prime fishing reefs in Lake Pontchartrain.

The Lake Pontchartrain Artificial Reef Working Group plans to begin this week dropping 600 "reef balls" on three places in the lake.

Designed to provide habitat for plant and animal life, reef balls are dome-shaped hollow cement structures with large holes to allow water to flow through them.

"They're made of a benign material, and they're designed especially for this," said John Lopez, co-chairman of the working group.

A barge from Pensacola, Fla., is bringing the balls from where they were manufactured by Coastal Reef Builders Inc.

Buying and installing the reef balls cost about $60,000, which the group raised through grants, including $30,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, $17,000 from Jefferson Parish and $15,000 from Fish America, Lopez said.

The group is raising an additional $40,000 to pay for monitoring of the reef balls for a year.

"One of the biggest issues was whether they would move in a storm," Lopez said, adding that the group got permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow the development of the artificial reef sites.

As a precaution, the group has installed plaques on each of the balls with telephone numbers and other contact information.

The smaller reef balls measure about 2 feet tall and weigh approximately 400 pounds, with the larger ones reaching about 3 feet tall and weighing about 1,400 pounds, Lopez said. He said their design and girth will help keep them in place.

The balls will be in an area where the water is about 13 to 14 feet deep, so the structures should not pose a navigational hazard to boaters, he said.

This is the second artificial reef project for the working group. The first involved limestone rubble placed about 2.1 miles east of the Lakefront Airport in 2001.

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