Governor Cuomo Launches First Phase Of Largest Artificial Reef Expansion In New York State History

Written by Long Island News & PR  |  31. May 2018

Albany, NY - May 31, 2018 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today deployed the first installation of recycled materials from the former Tappan Zee Bridge, as well as former Canal vessels, in the Shinnecock Reef, launching the Governor's initiative to significantly expand New York's network of artificial reefs. Announced in April, the program is poised to bolster 12 artificial reefs off the shores of Long Island—the largest expansion of artificial reefs in state history. The materials for the reef expansion will be strategically placed to improve New York's diverse marine life and boost Long Island's recreational, and sport fishing and diving industries. In addition to the inaugural expansion of the Shinnecock Reef announced today, five additional reef sites will be enhanced this year at sites off the shores of Smithtown, Moriches, Fire Island, Hempstead, and Rockaway.
"Long Island's economy thrives when there are fish for anglers to catch and recreational opportunities to explore marine life along the coast," Governor Cuomo said. "These artificial reefs are an investment in a stronger, more diverse marine ecosystem that will bolster the economy and bring a new purpose to the former Tappan Zee Bridge that will continue to serve New Yorkers for generations to come.
 At the Governor's direction, and with unprecedented, multi-agency coordination, recycled materials from the Department of Transportation, Canal Corporation, and the Thruway Authority will be used to develop New York's artificial reef sites and increase the biodiversity of these habitats for a variety of fish and lobsters. Construction of New York's first artificial reef dates back to 1949, and this latest initiative marks the state's first coordinated effort to stimulate the full environmental and economic benefits of artificial reefs.
Today, a total of 1,093.2 tons of materials were added to the Shinnecock Reef. Barges dropped 885 tons of clean, recycled Tappan Zee Bridge material, as well as deconstructed New York State Department of Transportation project materials, including:
  • 35 tons of triangular trusses
  • 100 tons of concrete deck panels
  • 750 tons of steel foundation pipes
  • 6 tons of steel lattice trusses
  • 13.1 tons of pieces of steel sheeting
  • 37 tons of steel beams
  • 13.8 tons of steel columns
  • 9.4 tons of steel girders
  • 0.9 tons of steel channels
  • 128 tons of steel pipes
In addition, the state placed three decommissioned Canal boats at the reef, including a 110-foot barge, 74-foot tugboat, and 40-foot tender. The 35-acre reef is located two nautical miles from shore and is 85 feet deep at its deepest point.
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 initiative, supporting the region's growing marine economy which accounts for approximately 9.7 percent of Long Island's total GDP.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "This innovative program to reuse waste materials from infrastructure projects will expand our critical network of artificial reefs that support local economies and improve the health of our fisheries.  Through Governor Cuomo's leadership, our communities, anglers, and environment all stand to benefit from the State's largest expansion of the artificial reef program." 
Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll said, "Recycling and repurposing materials from the Tappan Zee Bridge to expand the state's environmental resources and boost economic development is the outcome of Governor Cuomo ensuring that government at all levels work together to achieve results. It is rewarding to know that the Tappan Zee Bridge, which served the Thruway Authority admirably for decades, will now benefit Long Island communities in its new capacity."
Acting State Department of Transportation Commissioner Paul A. Karas said, "We are enormously proud of our contribution to the largest artificial reef in New York State's history. Long Island is renowned for its abundance of outdoor recreational activities, which Governor Cuomo has been an unequaled supporter of throughout his Administration. At the Department of Transportation, we are in the business of building infrastructure and promoting economic development, and this new reef will build a new infrastructure right off the coast that will protect fisheries and ecosystems while providing a new foundation for tourism and economic growth on Long Island."
Gil C. Quiniones, New York Power Authority President and CEO said, "We, at the New York Power Authority and the Canal Corporation, are proud to support Governor Cuomo's commitment to bettering our environment for the benefit of all New Yorkers. From energy efficiency to lowering greenhouse gases to reuse and recycling programs, we are making an impact on our climate. We are pleased to see our decommissioned Canal boats reused for this reef project, and look forward to seeing the fruits of this initiative through increased fishing and tourism and local economic development." 
Brian U. Stratton, New York State Canal Corporation Director said, "We are happy three canal vessels can again be put into useful service one more time. Their legacy will be represented by the enhanced fisheries and diving opportunities they will create for generations to come."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, "Governor Cuomo is leading the way towards improving Long Island's water quality and restoring our marine ecosystems. This is a critical step to ensuring the health and economic well-being of our region, and I thank the Governor for his continued commitment to protecting our environment."
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, "Nassau County is excited to be part of Governor Cuomo's rejuvenated Artificial Reef Program, and witness first-hand the placement of materials from the Tappan Zee Bridge. These new reefs will help restore our oceans and provide new opportunities for anglers, divers, and snorkelers. Today's reef announcement further cements New York as an environmental innovator and leader."
Rocket Charters President and New York's Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council Representative Capt. Tony DiLernia said, "We've been waiting for someone like Governor Cuomo to jumpstart New York's Artificial Reef Program for 20 years. Long Island's fishing community thanks Governor Cuomo for making this happen. These new reefs will improve fishing for anglers and families across Long Island, now and in the future."
Bill Ulfelder, Executive Director for The Nature Conservancy in New York said, "Today is an exciting moment for those who enjoy diving and fishing, and an important step for marine life as material to expand artificial reefs off Long Island is placed in the water. The Nature Conservancy applauds Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for moving this exciting initiative forward. On Long Island and across New York our economy, health, and way of life all depend on nature. Like other initiatives recently announced by Governor Cuomo aimed at improving water quality and revitalizing shellfish and ocean life, this project is a win for New York's fishermen, coastal communities and oceans."
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, "Building artificial reefs, restoring fish stocks and protecting our oceans are all actions abundantly supported by the public. Long Islanders love our waterways and the state's efforts to protect and restore them is essential for our sustainability. CCE is thrilled to live in a state where the Governor not only understands the economic value of water, but also the societal values of water."
Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters said, "The strategic re-use of former parts of the Tappan Zee Bridge and Canal vessels will benefit New York's ocean ecosystems and fisherman, as well as our coastal economies. The Artificial Reef initiative is another way our state is restoring our environment and reducing waste."
Throughout the summer, state agencies will be deploying 33 barges of Tappan Zee Bridge recycled materials and 30 additional vessels that have been cleaned of all contaminants. A total of 43,200 cubic yards of recycled Tappan Zee Bridge material, 338 cubic yards of steel pipe from DOT, and 5,900 cubic yards of jetty rock will be submerged and added to six reef sites as part of the first phase of this initiative.
DEC manages New York's Artificial Reef Program, which includes two reefs in the Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay, and eight artificial reefs in the Atlantic Ocean. 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. 
The reefs are built out of hard, durable structures such as rock, concrete, and steel pipes, and usually in the form of surplus or scrap materials that are cleaned of contaminants. After materials and vessels settle to the sea floor, larger fish like blackfish, black seabass, cod, and winter and summer flounder, move in to build habitats within the new structures, and encrusting organisms such as barnacles, sponges, anemones, corals, and mussels cling to and cover the material. Over time, all these structures will create habitat similar to a natural reef.
Artificial 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. Visit here for more information about DEC's Artificial Reef Program.
The Governor's Artificial Reef initiative builds on the state's record $300 million Environmental Protection Fund investment, $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act, more than $2 million NY Sea Grant program to mitigate Long Island brown tide, and actions taken to ban off-shore drilling along New York's coastline.

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