BY SARA SNEATH
June 13, 2016
The largest artificial reef ever built in Texas waters will be placed 6 miles off the coast from the Port O’Connor jetties in 2017.
The 381-acre artificial reef will provide critical habitat for recreationally important fish species, including red snapper, king mackerel and amberjack.
The $1 million fish haven was funded by a $400,000 donation from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, a $300,000 donation by the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas and a $300,000 donation by the national Coastal Conservation Association’s Building Conservation Trust.
The Port O’Connor site is among a series of artificial reefs the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department aims to build along the coast, said Chris Ledford, an artificial reef program specialist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Coastal Fisheries Division.
The artificial reef will also provide hard surfaces for barnacles and clams to latch onto and grow.
“That type of bottom is pretty few and far between in this part of the Gulf of Mexico,” Ledford said. “We have an overall plan to have near shore reef sites within state waters out of all the major ports along the coast.”
The artificial reef near Port O’Connor will be constructed of about 500 concrete pyramids and two old offshore oil rigs.
The concrete pyramids will be 10 feet wide on each side and 8 feet tall. Round holes on the sides of the pyramids will make the interior of the structures habitable to small fish, and a large triangle opening will make it possible for turtles to escape the structures, Ledford said.
Two derelict petroleum platforms in the area of the future reef site are the reason the reef will be twice as big as any current artificial reef in state waters. The decks of the platforms will be removed and taken back to shore, leaving the bare metal legs of the structure.
To allow for boat clearance, the platforms will then be laid on their sides or the top parts will be cut off. If the top parts are cut off, they can be placed in the water near the bottom sections to create more reef material.
The companies that own the rigs will be required to donate half of the money they saved from not having to tow in the whole platforms to shore to the artificial reef program, Ledford said.
The department is still getting permits for the project and will later need to put out bids for the work. Once those processes are complete, the construction and placement of the artificial reef will take six to nine months.
Larger fish could potentially inhabit the artificial reef within hours of the material being placed in the 66- to 70-foot-deep water.
The reef will not only be beneficial to anglers but also to the ecology of the bay, said Pat Murray, Coastal Conservation Association president.
“Coastal fishing in Texas has been the basis of some of the biggest conservation victories,” he said. “It’s a key driver for our economy and, honestly, a key driver for conservation.”
View the original article: Victoria Advocate, Artificial reef to benefit habitat, anglers