INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The first barge
loaded with limestone boulders from Broward and Lee counties
is expected to arrive later this month off the shore of Vero
Beach, where its crew will start work on a 5.2-acre artificial
"The boulders are being stockpiled in Fort Pierce as we
speak," county Coastal Resource Manager Jonathan Gorham said
The artificial reef
is intended to offset destruction to a natural reef by the
county's Sebastian-Ambersand beach-restoration project last
The state Department of Environmental Protection ordered
the new reef after the county had placed 545,000 cubic yards
of sand south of the Sebastian Inlet to combat erosion there.
Part of that sand, state officials said, would cover 3.8
acres of the natural reef, smothering marine life.
Hard-bottom reefs are not the colorful coral reefs of South
Florida, familiar to viewers of documentary shows. Rather,
they are mostly rock, but provide a home to sea urchins, sea
cucumbers, lobsters, various fish and other creatures.
Gorham said he expects the first boulder-laden barge to
leave the Fort Pierce docks the week of May 17, followed by
numerous trips until 50,000 tons of limestone boulders are
placed 200 yards off shore at a depth of 16 to 20 feet
underwater, starting about 1,000 feet south of South Beach
Park and stretching farther south.
Wilkinson & Jenkins Construction Co. of St. Petersburg
won a $2 million contract from the county to do the job. The
DEP is paying 75 percent of the cost, with the rest paid by
Gorham said the contractor has hired a Fort Pierce
subcontractor, McCulley Marine Services, for the barge work.
McCulley officials couldn't be reached for comment, by
Gorham said the company's first step so far has been to
reinforce the barge decks with concrete. The boulders would
have been too heavy for the decking otherwise, he said.
When the company gets about one third of the material
placed, Gorham said, the barges will start including a
different cargo — 25 "reef balls," hollow concrete domes made
by Vero Beach High School instructor Sue DeBlois'
environmental science class.
DeBlois said she hopes her students who are in town for the
summer will get the chance to watch the action from shore.
"And after McCulley drops the reef balls, we'll have divers
from the (county Fire Rescue Division) place them in the
arrangement we have designed," she said.
The reef balls are designed to provide habitat for fish,
lobsters and other marine life. The class made them under
sponsorship of the Reef Ball Foundation as a class project.
Gorham has said the artificial reef couldn't go in off
Ambersand Beach because of the existing near-shore reefs
there. South Beach doesn't have natural reefs near shore.
At a glance
• Material: 50,000 tons of limestone boulders, each
one 2 1/2 to 5 feet in diameter.
• Location: 200 yards offshore, starting 1,500 feet
south of South Beach Park.
• Size: 5.2 acres.
• Expected start of work: The week of May 17.
• Cost: $4.2 million, with $3.15 million from the
state and $1.05 million from the county.
• Contractor: Wilkinson & Jenkins Construction
Co., St. Petersburg.
• Barge subcontractor: McCulley Marine Services,