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  Miami Herald 2 May 07
Cleanup of tire 'reef' ready to roll
Military divers will reclaim tires from a failed artificial reef off Fort Lauderdale, and they will be burned for fuel.
By Amy Sherman

Yahoo News 18 Feb 07
Tire reef off Florida proves a disaster
By Brian Skoloff, Associated Press Writer

Miami Herald 20 Sep 06
Artificial reef made of tires becomes ecological disaster
By Trenton Daniel

What began 30 years ago as an idealistic plan to shape an artificial coral reef has become an underwater wasteland

A plan in the early 1970s to create a massive artificial reef off Fort Lauderdale has turned into an environmental mess with the U.S. Navy, Broward County and others trying to figure out how to remove about two million tires covering 36 acres of ocean floor.

What was intended to lure game fish now is damaging sensitive coral reefs and littering Broward's tourist-populated shoreline.

''They thought it would be a good fish habitat. It turned out to be a bad idea,'' said William Nuckols, project coordinator and military liaison for Coastal America, a federal group involved in the cleanup. "It's a coastal coral destruction machine.''

The tires dot the ocean bottom a mile and a half from the end of Sunrise Boulevard. Environmentalists say strong tides -- especially during hurricanes and tropical storms -- cause the loose tires to knock against coral reefs, disrupting the ecosystem. In some cases, tires have washed ashore.

Now, the U.S. Navy, Broward County and a few other groups are looking at a three-year plan to remove the tires. The organizers surveyed the waters last month. ''We're trying to work out all the specific details,'' Nuckols said.

Touted as the largest of its kind nationwide, the tire reef was created with the best of intentions. In the spring of 1972, a nonprofit group called Broward Artificial Reef, or BARINC, hatched an idea to build a three-mile reef while at the same time disposing of old tires.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers endorsed the project; similar ones had been created in the Northeast and Gulf of Mexico. Broward County pitched in with the funds. BARINC even raised $8,000 from bingo games. And so, the tires came from Goodyear and junkyards, bundled on barges to be dumped at sea.

The idea was that an artificial reef -- called Osborne Reef -- would form from the stacked tires.

TIRES CAME LOOSE

But it didn't work. Metal clips holding the tires together corroded, and the tires spilled across the ocean floor. Unlike sunken barges also used to build artificial reefs, the tires moved with the tide, and marine life never formed.

Fishermen grumbled that game fish never came because the water there was too shallow.

''I do know we made a mistake in doing it,'' said Ray McAllister, one of BARINC's founders and now professor emeritus of ocean engineering at Florida Atlantic University. "They weren't the great attractions we thought they would be.''

Today, the loose tires are damaging the environment because the tide tosses them about, causing them to bang against delicate marine life. The tires also emit a minortoxin, environmentalists say.

''I don't think anybody's worried about'' the toxin, said Todd Barber, chairman of the Reef Ball Foundation, an Atlanta not-for-profit organization that aims to protect reefs. "The primary hazard [is] they're moving around.''

The cleanup comes after earlier efforts, including a study that resulted in picking up more than 1,000 tires. The first priority is to pull out the loose ones, because they are causing damage.

Broward County is coordinating the effort, which is expected to take about three years, said Ken Banks, a reef expert with the county's Department of Environmental Protection. The project is expected to begin in 2008 after a monthlong assessment next summer, Banks said.

The project's cost has not been determined, Banks said. Nuckols, of Coastal America, estimated it could reach $5 million.

The state's environment department plans to fund the disposal or recycling of the tires, pending approval from the Legislature.

HELP FROM NAVY

The U.S. Navy could lend a crew of divers from its Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 in Virginia, who will go 65 to 75 feet below the surface, pluck the tires and then load them on to a U.S. Army landing craft. The Navy divers stand to get real-life experience.

''They don't have to hire a professional salvage company, which is not going to be cheap,'' said Petty Officer Phil Beaufort, a U.S. Navy spokesman. "This is an opportunity to get real training and do good.''

Florida's Department of Environmental Protection has expressed interest in the disposal or recycling of the tires once they reach the Port Everglades dock. It's unlikely some of the tires could be recycled since many of them are encrusted with marine life such as sponges and barnacles, said Jan Rae Clark, environmental manager of the department's solid waste section. Those would most likely end up in a landfill.

Observers applaud the project. ''They've wanted to make a real concerted effort over some time,'' said Robin Sherman, associate professor at Nova Southeastern University.

Ten years ago, Sherman stumbled across the tires while working on her doctoral dissertation. A few years later, she got a grant to study ways to clean them up, recruiting almost 90 diving volunteers and gathering 1,600 tires. The team recycled the tires, but became overwhelmed and abandoned the cleanup. ''I'm thrilled the project's going forward,'' Sherman said.

Yahoo News 18 Feb 07
Tire reef off Florida proves a disaster
By Brian Skoloff, Associated Press Writer

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A mile offshore from this city's high-rise condos and spring-break bars lie as many as 2 million old tires, strewn across the ocean floor a white-walled, steel-belted monument to good intentions gone awry.

The tires were unloaded there in 1972 to create an artificial reef that could attract a rich variety of marine life, and to free up space in clogged landfills.

But decades later, the idea has proved a huge ecological blunder. Little sea life has formed on the tires. Some of the tires that were bundled together with nylon and steel have broken loose and are scouring the ocean floor across a swath the size of 31 football fields.

Tires are washing up on beaches. Thousands have wedged up against a nearby natural reef, blocking coral growth and devastating marine life.

"The really good idea was to provide habitat for marine critters so we could double or triple marine life in the area. It just didn't work that way," said Ray McAllister, a professor of ocean engineering at Florida Atlantic University who was instrumental in organizing the project.

"I look back now and see it was a bad idea."

In fact, similar problems have been reported at tire reefs worldwide. "They're a constantly killing coral-destruction machine," said William Nuckols, coordinator for Coastal America, a federal group involved in organizing a cleanup effort that includes Broward County biologists, state scientists and Army and Navy salvage divers.

Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed budget includes $2 million to help gather up and remove the tires. The military divers would do their share of the work at no cost to the state by making it part of their training. A monthlong pilot project is set for June.

The full-scale salvage operation is expected to run through 2010 at a cost to the state of about $3.4 million.

McAllister helped put together the ill-fated reef project with the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He helped raise several thousand dollars (the county also chipped in), organized hundreds of volunteers with boats and barges, and got tires from Goodyear. Goodyear also donated equipment to bind and compress the tires, and the Goodyear blimp even dropped a gold-painted tire into the ocean in a ceremonial start to the project. The tire company issued a press release at the time that proclaimed the reef would "provide a haven for fish and other aquatic species," and noted the "excellent properties of scrap tires as reef material."

It was a disappointment, just like other tire reefs created off coastal states and around the world in recent decades. "We've literally dumped millions of tires in our oceans," said Jack Sobel, an Ocean Conservancy scientist. "I believe that people who were behind the artificial tire reef promotions actually were well-intentioned and thought they were doing the right thing. In hindsight, we now realize that we made a mistake."

No one can say with certainty why the idea doesn't work, but one problem is that, unlike large ships that have been sunk for reefs, tires are too light. They can be swept away by the tides and powerful storms before marine life has a chance to attach.

Some scientists also believe the rubber leaches toxins.

Virginia tried it several decades ago. But Hurricane Bonnie in 1998 ripped the tires loose, and they washed up in North Carolina.

New Jersey scientists thought they had a solution to the weight problem. In 1986, the state began a small reef project with about 1,000 tires split in half, bound together and weighted with concrete. It didn't work. Pieces of rubber broke loose and floated free. "We had to go up and down the coast of New Jersey and collect 50 to 100 of those pieces that were all along the beaches," said Hugh Carberry of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection.

The state then tried stacking tires 10-high and filling the cylindrical center with concrete. Each stack weighed about a ton. While the tires stayed in place, scientists soon learned they did not have enough surface area for marine life to attach, so they switched to using concrete balls.

Indonesia and Malaysia mounted enormous tire reef programs back in the 1980s and are just now seeing the consequences in littered beaches and reef damage, Sobel said.

Most states have stopped using tires to create reefs, but they continue to wash up worldwide.

In 2005, volunteers for the Ocean Conservancy's annual international coastal cleanup removed more than 11,000 tires.

The tires retrieved from the waters off Fort Lauderdale will be ground up for use in road projects and burned for fuel, among other uses. "It's going to be a huge job bringing them all up," said Michael Sole, chief of the state Department of Environmental Protection. "It's vigorous work. You have to dig the tires out of the sand."

Miami Herald 2 May 07
Cleanup of tire 'reef' ready to roll
Military divers will reclaim tires from a failed artificial reef off Fort Lauderdale, and they will be burned for fuel.
By Amy Sherman

Divers will begin fixing one of Broward's most unusual environmental messes this summer when they start to haul away more than half a million tires from the ocean floor.

The tires are the remains of an ill-conceived artificial reef constructed by a nonprofit group off the coast of Fort Lauderdale in the 1970s. Salt water and wave action tore the structure apart, leaving the tires to damage coral reefs and wash ashore.

The state and county now plan to remove the underwater wasteland and reuse it. The tires will likely be burned as fuel.

On Tuesday, commissioners approved a $6.6 million plan of attack that will take a few years to complete. Much of that cost is the value of free labor from the U.S. Navy and Army, whose divers will retrieve the tires as a training exercise.

The state will provide $2 million toward the cleanup. Broward will oversee the project.

Divers will experiment with the best ways to retrieve the tires 70 feet below the surface during a 30-day pilot project in June, said Ken Banks, a natural resource specialist in Broward.

During that test, divers also will determine how many tires they can retrieve when they start the three-year initiative in 2008. It will take that long to finish the project because divers will only take the plunge in the late spring, summer and early fall.

In total, about two million tires were placed under water. But the divers will focus on the largest concentration -- about 700,000, a mile or so from the shore near Sunrise Boulevard.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is close to finalizing an agreement with a contractor to burn the tires for fuel for a power plant or paper plant in Florida or Georgia.

Jan Rae Clark, environmental manager for DEP, declined to provide specifics about the contract, since it isn't final. In the past, the state has paid contractors up to $2 per tire.

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