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What Are Artificial Reefs and Where Are They Located in the Mid-Atlantic?

More About Artificial ReefsExit EPA Click for Disclaimer

Reefs provide a home for fish and other ocean wildlife. Once an artificial reef is placed on the ocean floor, various encrusting organisms such as corals and sponges start covering the material. Then small animals take up residence, and as the small animals become abundant, larger animals are attracted. After a time it is hard to tell an artificial reef from a natural reef.

Many different types of materials can serve as artificial reefs. The bodies of cars, trucks, subway cars, and military tanks have been used, as well as bridge rubble, barges, boats, submarines, planes, and large cable.

In August 2001, New York City subway cars were slid off a barge into the Atlantic Ocean ten miles east of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The cars, positioned in approximately 80 feet of water, became an artificial reef. Dives by the EPA Mid-Atlantic Region Scientific Dive Unit have confirmed that the cars are still intact, well covered by growth, and surrounded by fish such as flounder, tog, and shark.

Because of the success of the 2001 program, additional New York City subway cars have been placed off the coast. For example, in November 2008, more than 40 subway cars were placed in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 10 miles southeast of Ocean City, Maryland. The cars will serve as artificial reefs, which are critical in supporting a diversity of species along the Maryland coast. This is the second time in the past six months where partners of the Maryland Artificial Reef InitiativeExit EPA Disclaimer(including NYC transit) placed subway cars in the Atlantic Ocean to create deep water artificial reefs. There are plans to create up to a 600 car matrix off of Ocean City’s coast. Members of EPA's Coastal Science Team were consulted regarding the proper cleaning and removal of parts in the subway cars prior to placement. The national story was recently the focus of a NBC Nightly News Special report (video).Exit EPA Disclaimer

Artificial reefs are especially important in the marine waters of the mid-Atlantic. Years ago the natural bottom near shore had crevices in which fish could breed and hide. Today, however, widespread development has increased runoff from the land. This has resulted in large quantities of silt and sand being deposited into the water, making the near-shore bottom flat. Artificial reefs provide a way to bring fish and other ocean creatures back into an area.

There are also artificial reefs in Lake ErieExit EPA Click for Disclaimer, off of Ohio and in the James River in Virginia.Exit EPA Disclaimer

NYC subway car getting cleaned
NYC subway car sliding into the ocean
Scuba diver inside subway car on the bottom of the ocean

Mid-Atlantic Region | Mid-Atlantic Env'l Assessment & Innovation | Mid-Atlantic Coast

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