PANAMA CITY, Fla – Despite unseasonably frigid temperatures, U.S. Navy and Bay County personnel placed the last of 144 tons of concrete piling Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 and created a new artificial reef off the coast of Panama City Beach, Fla.
The initial load of concrete was placed in a prescribed location at sea Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Plans were to drop two additional sets of concrete pilings in the following days, but an ice storm shut down base operations onboard Naval Support Activity Panama City (NSA PC) and most of Bay County, Fla. until the late morning of Jan. 30, 2014.
The new artificial reef was built with materials of opportunity which happen to be one of two types of materials preferred for artificial reef construction, according to Bay County Planning and Zoning Artificial Reef Coordinator Allen Golden. The materials were owned by Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD).
“Concrete and steel are preferred for artificial reef construction and therefore will provide a long term habitat and shelter for marine life,” Golden said. “It’s not solid waste. Many people may think we use the Gulf to dispose of unwanted material, but that is not what we do.”
The concrete was initially planned to go to the landfill, however, NSWC PCD facilities and environmental personnel reached out to NSA PC, Bay County and Naval Facilities Command (NAVFAC) Public Works Department (PWD) personnel with a better option. According to NSWC PCD Facilities Branch Head Jason Zimmerman, the choice to put the concrete pilings to good use was a logical investment.
“NSWC PCD chose to invest in an additional expenditure creating the artificial reef for two reasons — to divert 143.9 tons of solid waste from a landfill, and to use that material for the creation of an artificial reef,” said Zimmerman. “This reef will promote marine life and benefit Bay County residents and the tourism industry in the panhandle of Florida.”
To send the 143.9 tons of concrete to the Bay County landfill via dump truck would have cost the U.S. Navy $36,290, but to use the material to build an artificial reef that would support new ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico waters, south of Panama City Beach, Fla., costs $53,500.
“We chose to enhance the environment through the creation of an artificial reef rather than to dispose of the concrete pilings in a landfill. The extra expenditure in this project was a worthy investment, providing a win-win-win for all involved,” Zimmerman said. “The Navy needed to dispose of excess research materials; the Navy progressed toward its requirement to divert waste from landfills; and Bay County residents gained a new recreational fishing area.”
“NSWC PCD was key in providing the material and the means to get the material to the site,” said Naval Facilities Command (NAVFAC) Public Works Department (PWD) Community Planner John Skaggs. “The coordination among NSA PC Operations Coordinator Jeff Willows, Allen Golden, and NSWC PCD’s Environmental Carmen Ferrer and Cara Johnson is what propelled this project from an inside the fence line project to a beneficial-to-Bay-County-resident’s project.”
Planning for the artificial reef took approximately 60 days. The approval of the artificial reef permit was signed by Golden Jan. 17, 2014.
“The great relationship between the Navy base and Bay County made this reef project possible without jumping through multiple hoops,” said Skaggs. “In the end, not only do we work at Naval Support Activity Panama City, but we also live and play in Bay County as well.”
Golden prescribed the coordinates of the site location and gave them to Navy base personnel.
“We diverted this solid waste from the landfill and are using it where it will have environmental benefits,” said Carmen Ferrer, Environmental Branch Head (Code B24).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division - www.navsea.navy.mil/nswc/panamacity/default.aspx.