A barge is dropping the last rocky segments of a $10.6 million artificial reef required to replace three acres of the real thing that will be buried when dredges add more sand to Satellite Beach and Indian Harbour Beach.
But some environmentalists say the new reef falls far short of what will be buried and lost, and have long worried the quality of beach sand won’t match the existing beach.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to release official numbers but sand placement is expected to be about 275,000 cubic yards, at a cost of just under $15 million, McGarry said, to widen Satellite Beach and Indian Harbour Beach this winter.
The artificial reef must be built before the new sand gets pumped onshore.
“We expect the final reef work to be completed by mid- to late summer,” Mike McGarry, Brevard County’s beach projects coordinator, said Monday via email. “We are very pleased with performance of the reef as observed thus far.”
The new reef now being built is part of 10 artificial reef sites along shoreline required under the county’s permits for the future beach renourishment project.
“It’s been popular among local fishermen,” McGarry said of the reef.
But some surfers, including local representatives of the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, have opposed the beach renourishment project, because of the natural reef it will bury.
A formal biological monitoring of the artificial reef will be undertaken this summer, McGarry said.
Researchers at the Florida Institute of Technology found the first sections of the artificial reef built at the time withstood Hurricane Irma in 2017 “without obvious signs of damage”and were “well colonized with fish, plants and other marine life.”
The reef is often referred to as “worm rock,” to describe the coquina rock outcrops. The rock reef is habitat for tube-forming marine worms. It provides shelter, food and breeding areas for fish,marine turtles, plants and other marine life. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designates the rocks as “Essential Fish Habitat.” The reefs periodically get exposed and buried.
In June 2017, Shoreline Foundations Inc. began placing 8-by-12-foot rectangular reef segments about a quarter-mile offshore of Pelican Beach Park in about 15 feet of water as a part of the beach renourishment project.
The county is putting the articulated concrete mats, with embedded coquina rock just offshore, to make up for any buried natural reef. County officials say their plan to renourish the depleted shoreline makes every effort to spare unique natural reefs near the beach and that the artificial reef will compensate for any reef they bury.
“The reef has been constructed to mitigate any burial of natural rock reef that occurs, but the project is heavily focused on minimizing impact to the nearshore reefs,” McGarry said.
Jim Waymer, Florida Today