One million pounds of concrete trash gets new life as artificial reef in Okaloosa County

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Another reef has been added to the artificial reef system in Okaloosa County.

Last week, about 500,000 pounds of concrete was dropped in the Gulf of Mexico and then another 500,000 pounds was piled Monday to build one of the largest artificial reefs.

"This was the first phase of a very large project," said Alex Fogg, coastal resource manager at Visit Destin-Fort Walton Beach, who went out on the drop Thursday.

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H.G. Harders dumped concrete off a barge into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022,  as part of a reef deployment off the coast of Okaloosa County.

Where is the concrete coming from?

When it's all said and done, it will be more than a million pounds of concrete, Fogg said.

H.G. Harders out of Panama City, which specializes in marine and heavy construction, took the materials out. All of the materials were donated by Eglin Air Force Base, Destin Water Users, the late Dr. John Chomer and Kirk Young, Fogg said.

Fogg said during the past two or three years, they have stockpiled the materials.

"We finally got enough to justify bringing it all offshore," Fogg said.

Concrete culverts, manholes and more were dumped as part of an artificial reef off Okaloosa County in recent days.

They loaded it onto a big barge, brought it offshore and pushed it over with a forklift.

He said they were able to get it all on the bottom in a "nice tight pile. And we're going to drop the next load right on top of it to give it more relief."

The reef is located about 14 miles southwest of Destin in the large area artificial reef site – C.

The tugboat, Mr. Rusty, pushed the barge loaded with concrete out.

"Believe it or not, it didn't have a speck of rust on it. It was one of the cleanest tugboats I've seen," Fogg said.

The barge was loaded with chunks of all kinds of concrete. Young donated several old culverts and manhole covers, all of concrete. Eglin donated many large targets that the military uses on its shooting range. Fogg said once Eglin is done with the targets, the base donates them for reefs. 

"They are super heavy and are really good reef material. We've deployed old targets at four different locations over the years … they work really well," Fogg said. 

Divers go down to check out the alignment of the concrete that was dumped as part of an artificial reef.

Chomer had donated some old modules that were designed to be reefs. And Destin Water Users donated several big chunks of concrete that were once an old retention pool. 

"They cut them up into manageable chunks … 1,000- to 2,000-pound chunks and donated them to us," he said. 

Nearly a million pounds of concrete was dumped as part of an artificial reef off Okaloosa County. The last drop at this site was Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.

The first pile of concrete was dropped "just shy of 110 feet," Fogg said. Fogg explained there's about 15 feet of relief, but with the second drop they are looking to hit the 30-foot mark. 

The second drop Monday went well.

"All materials deployed," Fogg said.

But don't look for fish to be on the reef anytime soon. 

"Honestly when we put these things out there it takes about a year before they start functioning as a full system," Fogg said. 

A barge loaded with concrete was dumped for an artificial reef off Okaloosa County. The last drop was Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.

"There will be red snapper and grouper there in a shorter time, but it is certainly not a place I'd go fishing at next week," he said. 

So, if people try to fish it during the Destin Fishing Rodeo, Fogg said they may be disappointed with the results. 

"But it will be a killer site in about a year," he said. 

The coordinates for the new reef are 30 degrees 8.49 minutes north latitude and 86 degrees, 33.9 minutes west longitude. To see a map of Okaloosa County's artificial reef system, visit destinfwb.com.