New artificial reefs to provide enhanced fishing off Texas coast

Written by TPWD

One project to create a new artificial reef and another to enhance an existing reef site are both moving closer to reality with the selection of Callan Marine LTD as contractor.

Using funding from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment, both sites will deploy concrete pyramids to create artificial reefs in nearshore waters 10 miles or less from the Texas coast.

Early this month, the Texas Artificial Reef Program managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department awarded the contract to construct the two reefs to Callan Marine, a civil and marine contractor based in Galveston, following the standard, extensive state bidding and purchasing process. The project will deploy three-sided concrete pyramids, 8-feet tall with ten-foot bases, at both reef sites.

“This will be the largest deployment of reef material in nearshore waters off Texas in the history of the Texas Artificial Reef Program,” said Dale Shively, director of the TPWD artificial reef program. “The project calls for 2,400 concrete pyramids to be reefed, which will provide much-needed habitat for all types of marine life as well as provide increased recreational fishing opportunities.”

The Matagorda Artificial Reef Project will create a new artificial reef site (BA-439) within Texas state waters in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 10 miles (8.7 nautical miles) offshore of Matagorda County. The project will create 160 acres of artificial reef through deployment of concrete pyramids onto sandy substrate at a water depth of 60 feet. The total estimated cost of the project is $3,552,398.

The Freeport Artificial Reef Project will increase the amount of reef materials in a currently permitted artificial reef site (BA 336), the George Vancouver (Liberty Ship) Artificial Reef, located about six miles offshore from Freeport. The current site is permitted for 160 acres, but only has materials in 40 acres. The project will place predesigned concrete pyramids in the remainder of the 160-acre permitted area onto sandy substrate at a water depth of 55 feet. This is a legacy reef originally created in 1976 with the sinking of the George Vancouver Liberty Ship. The TPWD Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, composed of agency and industry representatives, provided input on reef expansion. The reef is utilized by numerous recreational fishermen and the ship has attracted divers over the years. Commercial fishermen avoid the reef site as it is a well-known “wreck” marked with a navigational buoy and on NOAA charts. The total estimated cost of the project is $2,155,365.

The two reefs are among five Texas-based projects totaling about $18 million that were approved in 2014 to begin to compensate Texas for lost human use of natural resources resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A third artificial reef project is still in the planning phase, which would sink a ship to create an artificial reef approximately 67 miles offshore of Galveston, if a suitable ship can be found. Two park enhancement projects at Galveston Island State Park and Sea Rim State Park are in the final phase of preparation to seek contractor bids.

For more information about the Texas Artificial Reef Program, see the artificial reefs website, and its companion interactive mapping application.

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