Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced the deployment of 32 rail cars to the Fire Island and Twelve Mile reefs during the third year of New York’s historic expansion of artificial reefs off the shores of Long Island. The Governor directed this strategic deployment of donated rail cars-16 to each of the two reefs-as part of an ongoing effort to help improve New York’s diverse marine life and boost Long Island’s recreational, sport fishing and diving industries. To date, 64 of the 75 total rail cars donated by Wells Fargo Rail Corporation in 2020 have been deployed to reefs.
“New York’s historic commitment to growing our network of artificial reefs has become a national model for environmental conservation and economic growth,” Governor Cuomo said. “With the deployment of these 32 donated rail cars to both the Fire Island and Twelve Mile Reefs, we are not only strengthening the state’s vital marine ecosystems, but boosting local economies throughout Long Island with additional recreational and tourism-based opportunities as well.”
The 744-acre Fire Island Reef is located two nautical miles from shore with a depth of 62-73 feet. The 850-acre Twelve Mile Reef is located in the Atlantic Ocean, 12 nautical miles from Moriches and Shinnecock inlets with a depth of 123-143 feet.
Materials used for the reef expansion are strategically placed and include hard, durable structures such as rock, concrete, and steel. DEC oversees cleaning of the recycled reef materials to mitigate potential impacts to sea life before being deployed to the reef sites. Once materials settle to the sea floor, larger fish, such as blackfish, black sea bass, cod and summer flounder, move in to inhabit the new structures and encrusting organisms such as barnacles, sponges, anemones, corals, and mussels cling to and cover the material. Over time, these recycled structures create a habitat like a natural reef.
In 2018, Governor Cuomo first directed the expansion of New York’s artificial reef network with recycled materials from the State Department of Transportation, New York Power Authority/Canal Corporation and the Thruway Authority, among other public and private partners. The Department of Environmental Conservation manages the State’s network of 12 artificial reefs, which include two reefs in Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay, and eight in the Atlantic Ocean.
Out-of-use materials previously deployed to Fire Island Reef include, the retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineers steel vessel M/V HUDSON, as well as additional materials used to build the Staten Island Expressway, the Kew Gardens Interchange, sections of the old Kosciuszko Bridge, and other materials from the New York State Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority and NYPA/Canal Corporation. These include:
- Steel bridge girders 20 to 60 feet long;
- Steel pipe ranging in size from 20 to 40 feet long;
- Steel sign structure 50 feet long;
- Ten steel lifting tower pieces 10 to 15 feet long;
- One 30 ft. tainter gate;
- Lift bridge sections up to 34ft;
- 33 ft. miter gates;
- Six 20 ft. steel pontoons.
- 4,700 tons of jetty stone and 1,260 cubic yards of recycled Tappan Zee Bridge concrete road decking, pipe piles and substructure pieces;
- One 110’x29′ steel Air Force flat scow;
- One 38′ x 20′ steel piano flat scow;
- One 100’x29′ steel dump scow #24; and
- Twenty-eight road deck panels, concrete substructure, and pipe piles from the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Previously undeveloped, materials deployed to Twelve Mile Reef include:
- The 100-foot tug Dauntless; and
- The 102-foot tug Relentless.
Additionally, in September, the 70-foot tug “Jane,” 16 of the donated rail cars, and a steel turbine were dropped on Hempstead Reef, the first of multiple reef deployments in 2020. In October, 16 more donated rail cars were deployed to the Atlantic Beach Reef.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “The deployment of these rail cars to the Fire Island and Twelve Mile reefs further supports New York’s ongoing reef expansion and our commitment to restoring marine ecosystems. Governor Cuomo recognizes that expanding Long Island’s artificial reefs is an innovative way to reuse materials to develop new marine habitats and restore fishery resources while supporting local economic growth. The continued expansion of New York artificial reef network is also providing divers with new, exciting destinations to explore.”
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “The State Department of Transportation is proud to work with our sister agencies on this important program, repurposing transportation materials to expand artificial reefs and support biodiversity, fishing and tourism. It is another example of how New York State, under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, is taking bold steps to protect our ecosystems and foster sustainable economic growth that will benefit current and future generations of New Yorkers.”
NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said, “NYPA and the Canal Corporation are proud to have a role in the Governor’s Artificial Reef Program. This innovative program is beneficial to the environment and our shorelines and offers new recreational opportunities for fishermen and divers as well as local economic benefits to our shoreline communities.”
In his 2020 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo committed to doubling New York’s existing reef acreage by expanding seven of 12 existing sites and creating four new artificial reefs in Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. This expansion will be complete by 2022. In April 2020, DEC finalized a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement for the Artificial Reef Program to address advancements in science and expertise relating to artificial reef development. The SGEIS proposes expanding, creating, and continuing use of reef sites along New York’s shores. The first Generic Environmental Impact Statement and Artificial Reef Plan was developed in 1993.
President of the Long Island Divers Association Barry Lipsky said, “Governor Cuomo told the divers of Long Island that he would deploy two, 100-foot tug boat vessels underwater to begin development of the 12 Mile Reef site off Shinnecock Inlet last year. The Governor followed through with his promise and, in addition, added 16 rail cars last week to lie between the tugs. The Long Island Divers Association cannot thank Governor Cuomo enough for building up the 12 Mile Reef off Shinnecock Inlet as promised. With these materials, the 12 Mile Reef is now on the verge of becoming a true gem of a reef that is a destination for divers from all over, for today and for many years into the future.”
New York’s marine resources are critical to the state’s economy, supporting nearly 350,000 jobs and generating billions of dollars through tourism, fishing, and other industries. More than 500,000 anglers in the region will reap the benefits of the Governor’s initiative, supporting the region’s growing marine economy which accounts for approximately 9.7 percent of Long Island’s total GDP. Artificial reef construction is part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting, an effort to improve recreational activities for in-state and out-of-state sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state. For more information about DEC’s Artificial Reef Program visit DEC’s website.
New York’s Artificial Reef Program is an example of the Governor’s commitment to restoring marine ecosystems and economy. Coupled with the nation’s largest offshore wind agreement, record investments in the Environmental Protection Fund and Clean Water Infrastructure Act, a ban on offshore drilling, passage of the ‘bunker bill’ to prohibit the use of purse seines to protect this keystone species, continued progress on the Long Island Shellfish Restoration initiative, and other programs to protect and improve water quality, the Governor’s efforts are realizing a cleaner and healthier marine environment for all New Yorkers.