The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is part of an innovative partnership of agencies recognized by The White House for working together to protect and enhance the third largest coral reef system in the world – an underground garden of vibrant hard and soft corals including elkhorn, staghorn and sea fans.
During a ceremony yesterday in Hollywood, Florida, Coastal America and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs David L. McGinnis recognized efforts made by the Florida Artificial Tire Reef Cleanup Team by presenting them with a Coastal America 2008 Partnership award. Recipients of the award received a signed letter from President Barack Obama and the award is the only environmental award issued from The White House.
In the 1970s approximately two million tires were placed in the ocean off Broward County in an attempt to create an artificial reef and to enhance fish populations. The project became known as Osborne Reef. While the original intention was commendable, the tires have been displaced after years of weathering currents and storms. Many have made their way to shore – while those remaining are a threat to the fragile skeletal coral sculptures growing about the ocean floor.
A pilot project conducted in 2001 by Nova Southeastern University determined the Osborne Reef tire removal and disposal project to be important to protect the natural reefs in the area. In 2006, a group of federal, state and local agencies undertook a mission to determine if these tires could be removed in a coordinated recovery effort. This team discovered that few, if any, living organisms were attached to the tires and these could be easily removed and transplanted to a safe location during the recovery operation.
Understanding the importance of protecting the nearby natural reef, Governor Charlie Crist requested $2 million in the state budget for the much needed Osborne Reef project, available through the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund. The Florida Legislature passed the special appropriation enabling DEP to have a major role in protecting this outstanding coral reef and marine habitat.
“The Osborne Reef waste tire site is the first underwater tire site to be abated by the DEP since our waste tire program began in 1989,” said Mary Jean Yon, Director of DEP’s Division of Waste Management. “DEP is proud of our role in financing and managing the removal, transportation and processing of the tires taken from the reef so they can be recycled and constructively reused.”
In addition to DEP, the multi-agency partnership for this reef cleanup project includes Broward County, U.S. Navy and U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Coastal America, which is a partnership among federal, state and local agencies and private alliances to address environmental problems along our nation’s coasts. The federal partners include the Executive Office of the President and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as others.
DEP is also actively involved in the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative and in implementing the new Coral Reef Protection Act. Enacted by the 2009 Legislature, the law will increase the protection of Florida’s endangered coral reefs by helping raise awareness of the damages associated with vessel groundings and anchoring on coral reefs off the coasts of Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties. The law also authorizes penalties for the destruction of reef resources and provides for efficient repair and mitigation of reef injuries. For more information on DEP’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/programs/coral/ <http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/programs/coral/> .
Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection