New York governor grows state's artificial reef network with addition of 16 rail cars to Atlantic Beach Reef

Oct. 19, 2020
The deployment of rail cars to Atlantic Beach Reef will bolster the region's fishery resources and improve marine habitat.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the deployment of 16 rail cars to the Atlantic Beach Reef during the third year of New York's expansion of artificial reefs off the shores of Long Island. The governor directed this strategic deployment of rail cars - another 16 of the 75 total rail cars donated by Wells Fargo Rail Corporation - to Atlantic Beach Reef to improve New York's diverse marine life and boost Long Island's recreational and sport fishing and diving industries. In September, the tug "Jane," 16 rail cars and a steel turbine were dropped on Hempstead Reef, the first of multiple reef deployments in 2020.

"We continue to honor New York's environmental legacy and our commitment to conservation by growing our state's network of artificial reefs. These reefs benefit our environment by restoring fisheries and putting surplus materials to productive use," Gov. Cuomo said. "With this new addition, we are advancing our efforts to strengthen the marine environment for future generations of New Yorkers." 

As directed by the governor in April 2018 - and with multi-agency coordination - recycled materials from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), New York Power Authority(NYPA)/Canal Corporation and the Thruway Authority, among other public and private partners, are being put to new use to develop New York's artificial reef sites.  

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) manages the state's 12 artificial reefs, which include two reefs in Long Island Sound, two in the Great South Bay and eight in the Atlantic Ocean. The 413-acre Atlantic Beach Reef is located three nautical miles south of Atlantic Beach with a depth of 55-64 feet. One of the first reefs created in New York State, this reef was previously comprised of two vessels, nine barges, surplus armored vehicles, 404 auto bodies, 10 Good Humor trucks, steel crane and boom, rock, concrete slabs, pipes, culvert, decking, and rubble.  

Materials used for the reef expansion are being strategically placed and include hard, durable structures such as rock, concrete and steel. DEC oversees cleaning of contaminants from recycled reef materials to mitigate potential impacts to sea life before being deployed to the reef sites. Once materials and vessels 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.  

Out-of-service materials deployed in 2019 to the Atlantic Beach Reef were provided by NYSDOT, NYPA/Canal Corporation and National Grid, and include:  

  • Thirty-five 20-foot concrete barriers;
  • Twenty steel girders with concrete tops from the Staten Island Expressway;
  • Fifteen 5-40-foot steel pipes from the Kosciuszko Bridge;
  • One 75-foot decommissioned dump scow;
  • Eight 20-foot pontoons;
  • Twenty-six 10-14-foot lake buoys;
  • Four pieces of a 100-foot decommissioned dump scow;
  • One anchor;
  • One navigational buoy; and
  • One steel turbine and steel turbine shells.

 "Gov. Cuomo's pioneering approach to expand New York's network of artificial reefs is creating healthier, more vibrant and diverse aquatic ecosystems while supporting the economies of New York's coastal communities. I commend all of the state agencies and DEC's Marine Resources experts for their work in this ongoing, historic reef expansion effort, which is already providing more opportunities for anglers, divers, and the marine environment," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. 

In his 2020 State of the State address, Gov. 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 (SGEIS) 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 (GEIS) and Artificial Reef Plan were developed in 1993. 

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 Gov. 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.