Artificial Reefs are man-made structures that are deployed in a waterbody to mimic characteristics of natural reefs. They include materials such as clean concrete or rock, clean steel boat hulls, other clean, heavy gauge steel products with a thickness of ¼ inch or greater, and prefabricated structures that are a mixture of clean concrete and heavy gauge steel. Approved and properly cleaned vessels can also be deployed as artificial reefs.
The Walton County Artificial Reef Program originally started in 1994 with three permitted areas (Genesis Reef Site, Eastern Lake Reef Site, and Miramar/Frangista Reef Site). From 1994 to 2013, only four deployments occurred. In 2013, Walton County and the South Walton Artificial Reef Association (http://waltonreefs.org/) partnered together to develop the current Walton County Artificial Reef Program. It consist of 16 permitted areas including four (4) snorkel reef sites, nine (9) nearshore sites, and three (3) fish haven sites.
The objectives of the Artificial Reef Program for Walton County is to:
- Create stable and durable reefs that provide valuable habitat for fish and marine life and maintain and increase the regional abundance of marine life to levels as found on or exceeding the natural reefs off Walton County.
- Increase recreational and eco-tourism opportunities off Walton County for both residents and tourists.
- Increase the economic health and resiliency of South Walton County through the use of artificial reefs.
- Improve knowledge and understanding of artificial reef biology and performance measures.
Through TDC funds, private funds and donations, Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment funds, RESTORE funds, and state and federal grants, over 700 reefs have been deployed off the shores of Walton County.
For more information, contact Melinda Gates, Environmental Coordinator, at (850) 892-8108.