57 structures deployed



The city of Mexico Beach and the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Assocation (MBARA) last week completed a deployment of artificial reef structures in Bay and Gulf County waters.

The $179,000 project, with Walter Marine providing the heavy lifting, included 57 structures in 22 locations across nine permit sites in state and federal waters, according to a MBARA release.

The deployment also included a milestone for the MBARA: the largest reef structure in the Gulf of Mexico at roughly 750 feet in length.

“This year’s project used a new capability aboard Walter Marine’s newest vessel, a Dynamic Positioning System (DPS),” said MBARA President Bob Cox.

This system is a robust autopilot feature in which a computer and GPS system takes control of the ship’s steering, throttles and bow thrusters, keeping the vessel in a stationary position working against currents, tides, and winds that would otherwise move the vessel away from targeted stationary location such as a reef construction site.

“This is the first artificial reef construction vessel using DPS in our region and we’re pleased with the accurate and precise placements,” Cox said, adding, “the DPS was instrumental in successful construction of Mexico Beach’s largest reef to date.”

The deployment included 10 Super Reefs measuring 16-feet by 15-feet and 18 tons each, 16 pyramids measuring 8-10-feet by 10-feet and three to four tons, nine Grouper Reefs measuring six-feet tall, 10-feet long and five-feet wide and weighing four tons.

In additiona, 22 Chicken Transport Units measuring six-feet tall, eight-feet long, three-feet wide and 750 pounds were placed.

Of the 16 pyramids, 10 were memorial reef structures honoring loved ones, friends, military, and veterans.

The project was sponsored by the Courtney Knight Gaines Foundation, the MBARA, Mexico Beach Reefs for the Military and Veterans Committee, private donors, the St. Joe Community Foundation, the city of Mexico Beach, the State of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program.

Cox thanked volunteers Bob Stapleton and Jimmy Nicholson for providing their boats and assistance and “making it a smooth deployment.”

A film crew also followed the deployment to capture MBARA’s memorial reef process for a segment on an of “Chasin’ the Sun” to be aired on the Discovery Channel soon.

Artficial reefs are important to conservation of marine resources and the local economy. With natural reefs in jeopardy from environmental changes and physical damage, artificial reefs play a mitigating role to preserve ocean ecosystems for future generations.

Additionally, economic studies show that every dollar invested in artificial reef construction provides an annual return of over $131 to a local economy that’s heavily dependent tourism, recreation, and seafood industry.

MBARA is in need of more donors, members, sponsors and volunteers to make its program even better, Cox said.

The public is invited to attend MBARA meetings held on the first Thursday of every month and/or contact one of the Board of Directors with other means of support like donations, grants, and sponsorships, Cox added.

For more information about MBARA and its Memorial Reef program, please visit WWW.MBARA.org