Big chunks of concrete that once were part of the old Gulf State Park hotel in Gulf Shores, AL., are being dropped via barge into inshore areas of Perdido Bay at the Gulf of Mexico. Load by load, this dumping project -- an oddly creative recycling effort -- is extending the largest artificial fishing reef in America.
The old hotel was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. The sinking, a project of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, is taking a barge 40 to 60 trips through at least July to build onto this reef. The concrete gives a home for fish to to swim and school in 8 to 20 feet of inshore water.
Governor Bob Riley announced Wednesday that the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will begin demolishing the Hurricane Ivan-ravaged Gulf State Park Hotel on Oct. 9 and will recycle its concrete rubble to add to the state's highly successful inshore reef program.
"This rubble-to-reefs effort is an innovative way to protect and enhance Alabama's coastal resources," said Governor Riley. "Recycling the concrete and other reef-suitable materials from the old Gulf State Park Hotel will continue the expansion of Alabama's artificial reef program, which is the largest in the United States. For many years, visitors to Alabama's gulf coast enjoyed the accommodations at the Gulf State Park Hotel. Now the old hotel will create underwater habitats for speckled trout, red drum and other marine wildlife."
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Barnett Lawley emphasized the importance the reef program plays to Alabama's marine life and economy by providing many coastal resource benefits. "Submerging the concrete remnants of the hotel to the artificial inshore reefs effectively utilizes those materials to provide a marine wildlife habitat for great inshore fishing in the lower Baldwin County area," said Commissioner Lawley. "Easy access to quality public fishing reefs attracts more fishermen, which in turn will generate more tourism dollars to the area."
Virginia Wrecking Company of Loxley will handle the six-month long demolition of the old Gulf State Park Hotel. During that period, concrete from the old hotel will be added to a minimum of three of Alabama's inshore artificial reefs located in the Perdido Bay system as part of the "rubble to reefs" recycling effort. Reef material will be transported by barge to reef areas.
Approximately 1,200 square miles of offshore waters are included in the artificial reef general permit areas of Alabama, making it the largest artificial reef program in the United States. The product of a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Alabama Department of Conservation Marine Resources Division, the artificial-reef-building program began in 1953.
Beginning in 1996, the Division realized there was a need for artificial reefs within Alabama's inshore waters to provide fishing opportunities for fishermen who preferred to fish these areas.
Since then, a total of 21 inshore fishing reefs have been constructed within Mobile, Bon Secour and Perdido Bays, and Mississippi Sound of concrete bridge materials, culvert pipes, concrete roof panels, oyster shells, and crushed limestone.
"The first inshore reef to receive the old hotel debris will be the Bayou St. John Reef, which was begun in the fall of 2005 when material from the old hotel's pool, pool deck and seawall was deposited," Lawley explained. "We expect the Bayou St. John Reef will be completed with the addition of new debris from the old hotel."
Ono Island and Rockpile Reefs will also receive hotel debris to improve fishing opportunities. Ono Island Reef, begun in the spring of 2006 with a variety of debris from different locations, will be designated as a research reef for studying marine life living on different types of materials as they are added. Debris from the old hotel will begin formation of the 13-acre Rockpile Reef. Once completed, it will be the state's second largest inshore reef.
The beach resort town of Gulf Shores is 65 miles outside of Mobile, Ala., and five miles from Florida.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama's natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.