The Air Force base has state approval to plant 910 reef
balls in about 2 feet of water in the
By RON MATUS Published July 11,
Another artificial reef is headed to South Tampa.
MacDill Air Force Base won approval from state
environmental officials last week for an 800-foot reef planned
along the base's heavily eroded southeastern shore.
Base officials hope the $60,000 structure will not only sap
energy from incoming waves, but will protect an American
Indian burial site and create habitat for marine life.
If it works, they plan to expand the reef over the next
Instead of a wall, MacDill opted for a "creative
restoration project," said Peter Clark, executive director of
Tampa BayWatch, which will help build the reef in spring
The reef will be made from 910 reef balls - concrete
structures that resemble upside-down punch bowls and weigh
about 75 pounds each. They'll be positioned in 2 feet of water
about 200 feet from shore.
Erosion in the area is accelerated by the wake of big ships
that cruise to and from the Port of Tampa. The result:
Mangroves have washed away, and large live oaks cling to the
coast. Even parts of the base golf course could fall into the
Years ago, the base tried planting marsh grasses to grip
the shore, but that approach didn't work, said Jason
Kirkpatrick, the base's conservation program manager. With a
reef in place, the base might try replanting to further
stabilize the area.
MacDill officials still need a final okay from the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers. Corps officials say that should come
in a week or two.
The Air Force and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan
to split the cost of the reef.
MacDill officials say they won't build the reef until next
spring, when oysters colonize, attracting fish and birds.
After that, they anticipate adding to the reef every spring
For the initial phase, reef balls will be arranged in five
patterns 10 to 18 feet wide. Officials with MacDill and the
state Department of Environmental Protection will monitor the
reef to determine which arrangements work best.
The MacDill reef will be the third built in South Tampa in
In March, more than 80 volunteers planted 125 reef balls
off the southern end of the Bayshore Boulevard balustrade. In
April and May, volunteers stacked several tons of oyster shell
in the waters off the east end of the Friendship Trail
Yet another reef, this one at Ballast Point Park, has been
postponed until next year so the city can remove concrete
rubble along the shore.