An ambitious project to sink 100 artificial reef modules is scheduled for this morning in honor of Andrew Harris, who was killed by a boat in 2014 while snorkeling near DuBois Park in Jupiter.
The plan includes sending 50 pyramid structures, 35 coral head modules and 15 concrete block modules to the bottom of the ocean off the Jupiter Inlet beginning at about 8 a.m.
This is the second such deployment for the Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation, but on a much bigger scale than last year’s 40 module deployment.
“A lot has happened in the past year,” said Scott Harris, Andrew’s father and foundation president. “A year ago, we only had one product, one design, which we didn’t own. Now we’ve developed two of our own designs and have a third design, which is the pyramid.”
The foundation was established to honor Andrew Harris, who was 26 when he was killed, as well as help insure “the vitality of our local ocean by building artificial reefs in the waters where he loved to dive and fish off northern Palm Beach County,” according to its mission statement.
Scott Harris said one unique thing about this deployment was that he found the place where the artificial reef will sit on his own.
While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits areas for artificial reef placement, Harris said he located this one himself and the county was able to get approval from permitting agencies. Location is important, because if the sand is too deep, the structures, which can weigh as much as 8,000 pounds will sink into it.
“I did a lot of surveying and I went off the reservation a little bit and found this ideal area,” Harris said. “It’s about 800 feet long and 400 feet wide and it’s perfect with just two to six inches of sand above hard ground.”
Scott Harris said the foundation has an agreement with the county for a total of 240 modules. The foundation raises money to construct the modules, while the county has budgeted $260,000 for deployment. Harris hopes to sink another 100 modules next year.
The foundation also plans to add to the popular Phil Foster Park snorkeling trail by putting down “breadcrumbs” between the artificial reef pieces currently in place. Some people have concerns that the trail is hard to follow and that three concrete sharks that were put down last year at the west end of the trail are too close to the boat channel.
Reefs worldwide have been damaged by overly-warm waters, human interaction and hurricanes. Artificial reefs try to return some habitat to sea life that live on reefs.
In Palm Beach Count, more than 45 vessels, 82,000 tons of concrete, and 130,000 tons of limestone boulders have been deployed to create artificial reefs in the county’s nearshore and offshore waters.