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DEP Reinstates Subway Cars as Approved Reef Material

March 13, 2008

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) has reinstated subway cars as an approved reef material following a limited revision to the 2005 Artificial Reef Management Plan (pdf, 1.6mb) for New Jersey. These changes follow an announcement in the DEP Bulletin and subsequent public comment period.

The reinstatement of subway cars as approved reef material follows extensive studies performed by the NJ DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife's Artificial Reef Program, Delaware's Reef Program, South Carolina's Reef Program and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) regarding the environmental impact, durability, stability and productivity of subway cars deployed as artificial reefs. In addition to these studies, a literature review performed by NJ DEP Division of Science and Research was utilized in the assessment. All findings showed unequivocally that subway cars are a safe, stable and durable reef habitat that provides trophic support to fish by supporting invertebrate communities.

In light of these findings, NJ DEP Policy Directive 2003-02 (April 2, 2003) was rescinded by Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson. The former Policy Directive identified monitoring programs for deployed subway cars and outlined general standards for the structural integrity of other reef materials. The decisive issues that were the impetus for the Policy Directive were addressed in the aforementioned studies and literature review.

Among the decisive issues are the fact that Coastal Zone Management Rules, which address issues of contaminants, stability and density of reef materials exist in the 2005 Artificial Reef Management Plan for New Jersey (pages 3-6). In addition to these rules, the Philadelphia District, US Army Corps of Engineers (US ACOE), the administrating agency that issued the NJDEP a 404 Reef Construction permit, sets rigorous standards for structural integrity and density of reef materials. All reef materials currently listed in the 2005 Artificial Reef Management Plan for New Jersey, including subway cars, have been evaluated and approved by the US ACOE.

The NJDEP acknowledges all comments received related to the limited revisions to the 2005 Artificial Reef Management Plan for New Jersey and subsequent reinstatement of subway cars as approved reef material. Of the comments received, a total of 48 were in favor and 10 were opposed to these actions.

Listed below are the general comments received related to the reinstatement of subway cars as reef material:

  • The State of New Jersey's standards for acceptable reef materials exceed those required by the National Artificial Reef Plan. Policy Directive 2003-02 dealing with subway cars and other construction materials should be removed from the plan.

  • The inserted language in section 6.2.6 illustrates the benefit of utilizing subway cars that meet standards approved by the NJDEP.

  • Subway cars have a proven track record as being valued reef material.

  • Divers report that there are no appreciable signs of deterioration of the cars currently in place. Subway cars should be reinstated as acceptable reef material.

  • Subway cars add valuable new fishing grounds for anglers who are currently being restricted in other fisheries. The Division should move forward on all efforts to reinstate subway cars as acceptable reef material.

  • Subway cars are safe, fully functioning reef habitats that provide trophic support for reef fish by supporting invertebrate communities.

  • Subway cars remain structurally sound and do not deteriorate or move in any way. There are no negative impacts to marine life. The revisions to the reef plan are needed to reinstate subway cars.

  • The NJDEP should incorporate the requirement that "any material proposed for artificial reefs shall be carefully evaluated to demonstrate that the material is pollution free."

  • The NJDEP should allow for "other suitable material" in the revised plan and must retain specific standards for such materials.

  • The Artificial Reef Management Plan itself should incorporate the Rules on Coastal Zone Management requirements for artificial reefs, which state that materials used be non-toxic and pollution free: criteria which were contained within the Policy Directive 2003-02 which will be lost through these changes as proposed.

  • There are no negative environmental problems with the deployment of subway cars as they have been prepared for deployment to the strictest of US EPA standards.

  • Subway cars meet durability and stability criteria as required by section 5.3 of the Artificial Reef Management Plan.
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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: March 13, 2008