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May 17, 2005

Contact: Katie Smith or
Peter Boger
(609) 984-1795


New Program Provides Reef Materials as Part of Governor's "Coast 2005" Initiative

(05/60) BARNEGAT LIGHT -- The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today deployed a decommissioned navy tanker on the state's Garden State North artificial reef site. The deployment will help to improve New Jersey's artificial reefs and is one of the programs recently announced in Acting Governor Richard J. Codey's "Coast 2005" initiative.

"The Jersey Shore is one of our greatest natural resources and most important economic engines," Governor Codey said. "Today's artificial reef deployment reaffirms the commitment I made in my coastal initiative to improve coastal resources and to ensure that the shore remains a quality part of the Jersey experience for future generations."

"Our artificial reef program provides tremendous benefits to fishermen, divers, and our shore economy, while also providing new marine habitat," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "New Jersey is a national leader in artificial reef management and we remain committed to enhancing these reef sites for the dual benefit of our environment and economy."

DEP acquired the tanker, which will be called the Helis, through a $100,000 appropriation that will also allow the state to acquire two other decommissioned ships. The state will deploy the other ships later this year. DEP is placing the three ships at reefs along the entire Jersey coast so that as many residents as possible can enjoy the benefits of these new acquisitions.

Artificial reefs play an important role in supporting New Jersey's marine fishing and diving industries, whose activities on the reefs alone generate more than $50 million and overall provide more than $850 million to New Jersey's economy. In one study, DEP determined that one out of every five fish caught by recreational anglers in New Jersey's marine waters during 2000 was caught on a reef site.

Last month, Governor Codey announced his "Coast 2005" initiative, which includes a variety of programs designed to enhance coastal water quality and improve coastal ecosystems. Aside from the reef building program, the initiative includes new standards for maintenance and inspection of sewer systems to help prevent spills from polluting New Jersey's waters; $30 million in grant funding to assist municipalities in developing storm water management plans; and strengthening of coastal zone restrictions for offshore oil and gas development.

The DEP initiated its ocean reef building program in 1984, establishing over time a network of 14 reef sites from Sandy Hook to Cape May that encompass a total of 25 square miles of sea floor. The state has made more than 3,500 deployments of various reef materials - more than any other state in the country - including ships and barges, massive undersea ridges from six million tons of rock, and thousands of fabricated concrete reef units.

Artificial reefs can provide important habitat for many of New Jersey's marine species, with up to 200 species of fish and invertebrates known to colonize our reefs. Reefs also have 800 to 1,000 times more biomass than open ocean and can form important nurseries for juvenile fish.

In October 2004, DEP issued for public comment the most recent draft of its Artificial Reef Management Plan that covers all aspects of the multi-faceted program, including its objectives, history, benefits, site selection and other considerations. The new plan also establishes a protective standard for the stability, durability and effectiveness of various materials used in reef construction. Currently there is no uniform national standard for the durability of reef materials.

The 1.1-square mile Garden State North Reef Site where today's deployment occurred is approximately 6.5 miles offshore from Harvey Cedars in Ocean County and is comprised of more than 44,000 cubic yards of vessels, tanks, specially-designed "reef balls" and other materials. In 2003, it was one of five artificial reefs where New Jersey deployed 250 decommissioned New York City subway cars.

The 170-foot tanker deployed today formerly was known as YO-153 and was built for the U.S. Navy in 1943. It had been stationed at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Prior to deploying the tanker at the reef site, DEP supervised cleaning of the tanker to remove all greases, floatables and other materials that might be harmful to the marine environment. The U.S. Coast Guard inspected the cleanup of the tanker prior to allowing DEP to transport the ship to the reef site.

The vessel was sunk by cutting holes in the hull and opening the engine room sea locks, which allowed the ship to take on water slowly. This vessel is the 134th ship to be sunk on New Jersey's artificial reef sites.

For more information on New Jersey's artificial reef program visit the DEP website at For more information about the Governor's "Coast 2005" initiative, visit




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Last Updated: May 17, 2005