Air pipes

NCDOT donates pipes to build artificial reefs off Brunswick County coast

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – A partnership between NCDOT and the Division of Marine Fisheries will transform damaged concrete pipes into artificial reefs.

“We do this, basically, to provide habitat for a variety of fish species as well as a place where people can fish and [for] people to go scuba diving,” said Jordan Byrum, artificial reef coordinator for the Marine Fisheries Division.

Casting concrete objects to the bottom of the sea to help build habitats for sea life is nothing new. In the past, states have dumped old cars and appliances in the water to try to help these reefs grow. Things have changed since then and the state is looking for cleaner materials for these projects.

“These are things that are clean, that are free from any type of contaminants or pollutants, no oil, grease, anything like that,” Byrum said. “We also want to find something that’s strong, stable and won’t break down over time.”

Concrete meets all of these requirements and will not be easily buried by sand.

These hoses in particular are too damaged to be used by the DOT. More than a thousand tons of pipes were removed from the DOT maintenance yard in Columbus County. They were replaced after being damaged by Hurricanes Matthew and Florence. The Bladen County Department Maintenance Yard sent more than 100 tons of similarly damaged pipe for use in the project last week.

Currently, the tons of concrete are stored at the Port of Wilmington, but by late spring they will be on the ocean floor near Oak Island and Shallotte Inlet.

“When you put something on the bottom, it doesn’t take long for the fish to start using it,” Byrum said. “For example, we sank a tug a few years ago just before Hurricane Florence. When it hit bottom I was probably diving 30 minutes after it hit bottom and there were already fish on the tug on the bottom.

Small fish love to use the holes in these pipes to hide from larger fish, while larger fish will seek out smaller species attracted to this area. This is good news for anglers in Brunswick County.

The DOT donation is also good news for the state’s wallet. The Fisheries Division has a budget of $500,000 for this project, and the free concrete allows its money to go a little further. If the NCDOT did not donate the concrete, it would cost $65,000 to dispose of it.

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