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Officials to remove 1970s tire reef that became eco-disaster off Fort Lauderdale

Discussion in 'Florida' started by Scuba_Jenny, Feb 15, 2007.

  1. Scuba_Jenny

    Scuba_Jenny dirty-finned dive goddess ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Hollywood, Florida

    By David Fleshler
    South Florida Sun-Sentinel
    Posted February 15 2007

    An undersea graveyard of discarded tires dumped off Fort Lauderdale in the early 1970s will start to be dismantled this summer to correct a misguided effort to create the world's biggest artificial reef.

    About 1 million to 2 million tires, often strapped together in bundles, were tossed overboard from ships and pleasure boats about 35 years ago to create a fishing reef, a structure that would attract fish for people to catch. But the tires broke free during storms and bounced around to invade real reefs, killing coral, sponges and other marine life.

    The debacle left a 34-acre field of tires about a mile from the beach, an undersea eyesore that one environmental official compared to a hazardous waste dump.

    Gov. Charlie Crist has proposed spending $2 million to dispose of about 675,000 of the tires. In June, about three dozen Army and Navy divers will test methods for recovering them, such as stringing them necklace-like onto ropes or loading them into nets on the ocean floor.

    "It will get the tires off the reef and away from the reef," said Ken Banks, a reef specialist with the Broward County Environmental Protection Department, which will manage the work. "It should allow the reef to come back to life."

    Of the tires heaved into the ocean, about 700,000 remain in dense packs between two reefs, the rest having drifted off or washed up on the beach. While some tires that appear to be tied together and stable will be left in place, the state's money will allow most of the rest to be removed.

    The military divers will work for free as part of their training. In a similar operation, Army and Navy divers have removed microfilament fishing lines from the floor of Puget Sound.

    "It's a large-scale salvage operation," said Will Nuckols, project coordinator for Coastal America, a federal agency that sets up partnerships with other branches of government. "These are the same guys who recover sunken vessels, who recover military assets that have fallen into the ocean."

    Accompanying the divers will be an Army transport vessel, called an LCU 2000, that is equipped with a crane. The crane will hoist the tires directly onto cargo containers on the ship. When they're full, the ship will head to Port Everglades, and trucks will haul the tires to recyclers, incinerators or landfills.

    When the state first considered recycling, there was concern that the tires would be so encrusted with sand, salt and sea organisms that they would decay and generate odors that would make the tires unsuitable for many uses. But samples collected a few months ago turned out to be not as difficult to deal with as feared, with organisms drying and falling off, rather than decaying and sticking in cracks in the rubber.

    Recyclers slice tires into pieces for use as playground surfaces, colored mulch and septic-tank drainage fields. Power plants burn tires to produce electricity.

    Jan Rae Clark, environmental manager for the solid waste section of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said the recyclingwill cost the state about $3 per tire.

    The work this summer will be a pilot project, intended to test methods for removing tires from the seabed. Assuming all goes well, divers will return each summer for the next three years until the 675,000 tires have been hauled up.

    David Fleshler can be reached at dfleshler@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4535.
  2. HowardE

    HowardE Diver ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Boca Raton, Florida
    Wow. I'm almost bummed that I never dived the tire pile.
  3. Scuba_Jenny

    Scuba_Jenny dirty-finned dive goddess ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Hollywood, Florida
    Well,you still have time. It's gonna take 3 years to get 675,000 tires up. I have seen parts of it. Nothing there. No fish, nothing. Dead.
    Wonder if they would take volunteer divers to help? I would love to help out.
  4. Tom Winters

    Tom Winters Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Boca Raton, FL
    Trust me - you didn't miss anything. Those things are going to be an unholy nightmare to drag up to the surface. I'm not sure how $2 million is enough to get this many tires to the scrapper, even with the armed forces charging a lot of it off to training.
  5. The Kraken

    The Kraken He Who Glows in the Dark Waters (ADVISOR) ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Roswell/Alpharetta, GA
    Be some great lift bag experience for Florida divers !!!!!

    the K
  6. Puffer Fish

    Puffer Fish Captain Happy ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives:
    Location: Knoxville, TN
    One of the worst things I have ever seen... wish I could help. You are missing nothing.
  7. H2Andy

    H2Andy Blue Whale

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: NE Florida
    well, at least now we know that nothing grows on old tires and fish don't come to live there
  8. trigfunctions

    trigfunctions Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
    This sounds like great news. I have to say I'm surprised and impressed that Crist is doing this. I wonder why our former gov never got around to it?

    EDIT - I didn't see Jenny's earlier thread.

    Diving on the tire reef is interesting and depressing. There is a pretty good video on the Sun Sentinel article web page.
  9. SFLDiver

    SFLDiver Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Boca Raton, FL
    I'm surprised anyone who dives off Broward has not seen a stray tire.

    I recall one particular lost kayak dive off Deerfield just south of Embassy Suites.
    Hooked up to a lobster float for prepping a dive (hellacious current that day too)
    got ready and descended down the line .. and down ... and down.
    Finally at 80ft I spot the lobster trab dragging a trail thru the sand at 100+,
    so I turned it into a drift dive and started swimming in towards the 2nd/1st reef.

    Swimming at about 40-50ft depth I could easily make out the bottom (great vis day)
    and I'd say at least every 100 yds I spotted a stray tire. Translate that into
    being at least 1/4 mile from the 1st reefline (2nd reefline was more of a bump in that
    area) and I'd put it at around 3-4 dozen tires.

    I run into a few tires kayak diving off Oakland Ridges,
    and have rarely found anything living in em.
    Sometimes I find brittle starfish hiding underneath,
    or a few blennies hiding inside.
    Nothing grows on the tires except silt.
  10. drbill

    drbill The Lorax for the Kelp Forest Scuba Legend

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Santa Catalina Island, CA
    Certainly sounds like an eyesore and ecological nightmare.

    We have much smaller, scattered groups of tires on the bottom here (including some in the dive park) that I've often wondered about. I do see marine life encrusting on the tires (although not to the extent they do on natural substrates) and others using them for homes or protection... especially octopus.

    Wonder which of our misguided efforts people will be talking about 50 years from now?
    Arubandi07 likes this.

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