FLAGLER BEACH -- Strange-looking
blobs of concrete plummeting to the bottom of the Atlantic
Ocean will be a godsend for underwater creatures -- not to
mention anglers and divers.
Flagler County officials are planning to dump 110 globular
"reef balls" in 68 feet of water about 16 miles southeast of
the Matanzas Inlet. It will be the eighth artificial reef off
"The reefs are working out real well," said Ralph Olivett,
who fishes almost every day.
Olivett, 49, said he caught red snapper and flounder at the
artificial reefs this week. He owns Palm Coast Charters and
frequently takes people to fish the reefs.
The Flagler County Commission is scheduled Monday to award
a contract for almost $50,000 to have a company dump the odd
reef balls in the ocean. Almost $40,000 will come from a
federal grant funneled through the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission, and $10,000 will come from the St.
Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach Authority, according to the
Officials say the reefs provide a habitat for fish and they
bring in tourism dollars as people travel from outside Flagler
to fish and dive on the reefs.
Last year, the county dropped surplus bridge pilings to the
ocean floor to serve as a reef. Amy Kennedy, coordinator of
the county's Artificial Reef Program, called those "materials
But the porous balls, she said, make a better reef.
"The reef balls add a real complexity, and really a greater
habitat than those bridge pilings did," she said.
Off Volusia County's coast -- a fishing trawler, along with
concrete blocks, old ships and airplanes -- make up more than
a dozen reefs where fish congregate below the water's surface
and anglers drop lines above.
The seabed is flat and barren with isolated rock
outcroppings for bottom-of-the-food-chain critters to grow on.
The artificial reefs become an oasis, an explosion of life.
"Ain't nothing but a blank carpet with nothing going on all
over the place, and then all of a sudden, bam!," Olivett said.
The algae and plankton attract the fish that are eaten by
the fish that Olivett tries to hook.
It takes about three months for a healthy coat of algae to
grow on the concrete, said Jim Netherton, scientific adviser
for the reef program. However, baitfish will be swimming in
the area within hours after the reef balls have been dropped,
"It's really fast," Netherton said.
The county is planning to use 70 reef balls made by
students at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville. St.
Cloud-based Reef Innovations Inc. is expected to provide the
Alex Waters, director of marine studies at the high school,
said his students have been making reef balls for the past
five years. They pour concrete into a fiberglass mold and wait
for it to dry overnight.
The result is a concrete ball up to 6 feet wide and
weighing up to 4,000 pounds.
The process teaches students about habitat restoration,
ecology and stewardship, he said.
"It gives them the opportunity to really do something
hands-on instead of seeing a PowerPoint, slide show or a
video," Waters said.
Kennedy said the county needs an eighth reef because the
others are starting to get crowded. Frustrated that too many
people are fishing the reefs in St. Johns County, more boaters
are traveling south to Flagler's reefs, she said.