Bay County’s new artificial reefs make a big splash

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 8:01 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Bay County’s artificial reefs continue to grow. With a slow roll and a huge splash, two more artificial reefs sank into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday morning.

“As they land on the bottom, give them some time, the barnacles will form on them and then they’ll attract fish,” Bay County Commissioner Bill Dozier said.

Roughly a dozen miles off Port Panama City, recycled industrial reels are being put to good use.

The massive structures are roughly 30 ft tall and weigh almost 50 tons each. It took a lot of power to move them off of a barge and into the water. But eventually, they dropped in and sank roughly 100 ft down.

The reels will act as a new habitat for the underwater community.

“A lot of our area is a sandy bottom so this hard substrate produces a whole different type of environment,” Scott Jackson, Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent for UF/IFAS, said.

This project is part of Bay County’s growing Artificial Reef Program. It’s one that officials said is taking a village to complete.

“Just how many different groups, how many different organizations, and different volunteers that help put forth that effort to get us to this position today,” Jackson said.

Some of the organizations and groups involved are the Tourist Development Council, BOCC, Oceaneering, UF/IFAS, Port Panama City, Mar-K Towing, and Panama City Diving. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are also supporting the project.

The reefs that are now deep into the Gulf, have an even deeper impact on our community.

“Boosting the fishing industry, boosting the diving and tourism industry. And for locals, locals that live here year-round, are going to be able to come out and enjoy this any time they want to,” Dozier said.

Officials said three more reels will be sinking into the water over the next few weeks.

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