A DIFFERENT SOLUTION
With the widening of the Cape Fear River channel resulting in increased traffic to the Port of
Wilmington, officials recognized a need to protect the historic site at Brunswick Town/Fort
Andersen. Left: The Atlantic Reefmaker system protects the shoreline from barge-produced
waves. Below: The flow-through aspect of the system stabilizes the marsh. Since implementa-tion,
the system has protected around 742 feet of shoreline at Brunswick Town.
COURTESY OF ATLANTIC REEFMAKER
DVOCATES says artificial reefs have the potential to make
beach renourishment obsolete. They argue, in addition to
protecting against the adverse impacts of hurricanes and
creating a safe harbor for wildlife, they can create popular
surf and diving spots.
The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) has
already constructed a network of 42 artificial reefs in the ocean and
22 in estuaries. The purpose is to provide a spawning and foraging
habitat for many species of fish and to establish oyster sanctuaries.
“Artificial reef projects can aid in the recovery and preservation of
coastal populations through the maintenance and establishment of
a nursery at the desired site,” Rodan says.
Another goal is to compensate for the destruction of coastal habi-tats
and the reduction of water quality. A side benefit is an expan-sion
of recreational diving.
The NCDMF used a variety of old boats to build the reefs. The
scuttled vessels consist of everything from trawlers and fishing boats
to barges, dredgers and sailboats, and even a few old Navy ships that
saw action in World War II, the Korean War and the Cuban Missile
Crisis, creating many areas of interest for divers.
A study commissioned by the board of county commissioners in
Citrus County, Florida, found that the average cost of building an
artificial reef was in the tens of thousands of dollars, significantly
less than beach nourishment projects.
The study said the network of artificial reefs in the Florida
Panhandle has an economic impact of $415 million per year.
In addition to creating healthy fish populations and attracting
divers, a network of artificial reefs would be a positive for surfers.
A major swell event draws a crowd, so creating new surf spots has
the potential to generate a positive impact on local economies. A
recent report published by Surf-First and the Surfrider Foundation
shows that surfers visit the beach around 100 times a year, spend-ing
approximately $66 each trip. This equates to a more than $36
million annual contribution.
At the Marriott beach resort in the Cayman Islands a network of
artificial reef ball units was placed in front of the resort in hopes of
replenishing a section of the beach lost to coastal storm surges.
After three months, the artificial reef had produced a shoreline
accretion of 18 meters. After four years, the beach was almost
Rodan says artificial reefs can be an effective means of ensuring
“A new reef’s physical characteristics will produce a considerable
drag on each incoming wave; slowing the wave’s speed, shortening
the wave’s period, and causing the wave to break prematurely,”
he says. “This condition, combined with the gentle slope of the
seafloor, should result in a more ‘crumbly’ and less powerful wave
Australia, one of the most surf-crazed nations on the planet, has
a functional artificial surfing reef. The project began in 2013 when
the city of Gold Coast realized that something needed to be done to
protect the area from erosion.