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Gov. Cuomo to announce expansion of artificial reefs off LI

Nearly 50,000 cubic yards of material from the demolished Tappan Zee Bridge as well as decommissioned vessels are to be submerged in waters around Long Island.

A section of the old Tappan Zee Bridge

A section of the old Tappan Zee Bridge is lowered by floating crane onto a barge on the east end of the bridge in Tarrytown on Nov. 18, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Julie Jacobson

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is scheduled to be on Long Island Tuesday to announce the largest expansion of the state’s artificial reef program with the addition of a mountain of material from the demolished Tappan Zee Bridge and decommissioned vessels to be submerged in waters around Long Island.

Nearly 50,000 cubic yards of material from the bridge, including 40-foot-long sections of underwater pipe, as well as jetty rock and decommissioned tug boats, barges and scows will be added to six existing underwater reefs. Five of the reefs are in the Atlantic Ocean and one is in Long Island Sound.

State officials said the materials will be added to state-approved artificial reefs and will be cleaned and stripped of contaminants before deployment. The aim is to increase biodiversity in the areas, while providing additional recreational fishing and diving opportunities. “That structure is going to attract a lot of different fish that are not there,” said a state official briefed on the plan.

Under the program, which will start in May and continue through the summer, the state will send 33 barges full of material recycled from the Tappan Zee Bridge and other material to fill the reefs around Long Island. It will also drop 29 former canal vessels into the water.

The six reefs are:

  • The Fire Island reef two miles due south of the Fire Island Lighthouse, which will get 10 barges of Tappan Zee Bridge material, 11 canal vessels, one barge of steel and four barges of jetty rock dropped around a 744-acre reef to a depth of 73 feet.
  • The Shinnecock reef 2 nautical miles from the Southampton shore, which will get one barge of Tappan Zee Bridge material on an existing 35-acre reef in 79 to 84 feet of water.
  • In the Atlantic off Moriches, the state will drop two barges of Tappan Zee Bridge material and two canal vessels during the summer to expand a 14-acre reef that is 2.4 nautical miles from shore, in 70 to 75 feet of water.
  • In the Atlantic 3.3 miles off Hempstead, the state will drop 12 barges full of Tappan Zee Bridge material and 11 canal vessels at a 744-acre reef in water up to 72 feet deep.
  • The state also will drop one barge of Tappan Zee Bridge material onto a 413-acre reef 1.6 nautical miles from the Rockaways.
  • The Smithtown reef in Long Island Sound will get three canal vessels and a barge of steel at a reef 1.6 nautical miles from shore, in 38 to 40 feet of water.

The state reef system is maintained by the Department of Environmental Conservation, whose commissioner, Basil Seggos, said the program will “bolster the economies of our fisheries.”

Cuomo said, “These efforts will increase New York’s marine biodiversity, provide new habitats for a variety of coral and fish, and support a growing tourism industry . . . ”

Recreational fishing interests were supportive.

“This is great thing, we’ve been asking for it for years,” said Neil Delanoy, owner of the Laura Lee out of Captree Boat Basin, who fishes existing artificial reefs extensively for black sea bass, porgies, black fish and fluke.

Delanoy said that while some may worry about the material, there’s little debate that it attracts fish. “It’s like a housing project for fish . . .,” he said.

But not everyone was happy.

“They’re just trying to hide their garbage for free, and patronize New York fishing interests while doing it,” said Daniel Rodgers, a Southampton lawyer who is director of New York Fish, an advocacy group that is pushing the governor to more aggressively fight the state’s low share of the fluke fishery and to reform its permitting system.

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