A group of local divers
hopes an artificial reef will draw a montage of elegant marine life
into the May River.
But a state official who works with South Carolina's artificial
reef project says the proposal has yet to be reviewed and might not
pass muster with state regulators.
Two weeks ago, the Hilton Head Island Scuba Dive club began a
donation drive to purchase 50 "reef balls" - porous concrete
bladders that can grow coral and provide shelter for marine species.
Amber Hester, recently elected president of the 32-member club,
said the group hopes to buy 50 of the 3-foot-by-4-foot balls.
They cost $204 each, said Joe Pelletier, owner of Island Scuba
Dive & Travel, a partner in the proposed reef project.
Up to 20 reef balls could be used in the river, Hester said. The
remainder would be dropped in offshore artificial reef sites already
being developed by the state.
The idea for the project, Hester said, came from conversations
she had with family members and fellow divers on how to beautify and
diversify the depths of the May River.
The river is a popular destination for fossil and artifact
hunters who seek treasures hidden in its bed, she said. But it is a
murky underwater world with little marine life.
Hester said a vibrant coral reef ecosystem can be developed in
the river. The reef would provide a haven for marine creatures that
otherwise would be swept out to sea by the tides.
Mel Bell, section manager of the state Department of Natural
Resources' fin fish management program, said he was unaware of the
dive club's plans.
To gain permission to place an artificial reef in the May River,
he said, the club would need go-aheads from his department, the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers and the state Office of Ocean and Coastal
Bell said that while the Department of Natural Resources was
interested in developing some river reef projects, similar projects
in the state have failed.
"Why do something that Mother Nature isn't doing already?" he
Building an artificial reef in a river is different from building
one offshore, he said, because the ecosystems already present are so
Most successful river reef projects are based more on tidal reefs
that emerge at low tide, he said. Such projects are based on oyster
Bell said that while he has never worked with the dive club
before, the Hilton Head Island Sportfishing Club has been involved
in offshore and inshore artificial reef projects in the past.
Concerns about boater safety in the May River would be addressed
in the permitting process for the reef balls, Bell said.