St. Lucie County Artificial Reef Update: May 2019

Volunteers working on the Indian Hills Stormwater Treatment Area Oyster Reef. PHOTO CREDIT: St. Lucie County Coastal Resources.

One month after volunteers completed the Indian Hills Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) Oyster Reef, inspection of the reef showed that macroalgae had started to grow on the reef.  There was no evidence of seagrasses growing between the reefs, but sand accretion had started on the northern part of the project area, showing that the shoreline had been stabilized in this area.  This may be important in preventing shifting sands from covering existing seagrass beds in the area.  Shifting sands can become suspended in the water column after current and wave energy disrupt shorelines. Suspended sediments can reduce light penetration and affect photosynthesis by seagrasses, preventing colonization of sand bottoms by nearby seagrasses.  As wave energy diminishes, sediments come out of solution and can be deposited on existing seagrass beds.

Voice Bernadette Update

A deployment date for the Voici Bernadette has been set.  The ship will be towed offshore St. Lucie County on Saturday morning, June 8. Events to commemorate the deployment are being planned by MMPS, Environmental June 6-8.  For more information contact Christa Stone at [email protected].

Fundraising for the deployment of the Voici Bernadette continues.  The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Florida and the Music City Chapter of the CCA have raised substantial funding and requested naming rights for the reef; however, two local companies have pledged enough to buy the naming rights outright. In addition, the CCA has begun auctioning memorabilia salvaged from the Voici Bernadette.  Larger items not auctioned yet include:  1) the ship’s wheel and brass pedestal, currently on display at the Manatee Observation and Education Center, 2) the ship’s binnacle, on display at West Marine on US1 in Fort Pierce, 3) the ship’s fire extinguisher and one brass window on display at Stuart Scuba, and 4) another brass window being displayed at Elpex-Hickman’s on Orange Avenue. In addition, the aluminum skiff is still at the Port of Fort Pierce warehouse and MMPS, Environmental has refurbished both small horsepower outboard engines used to power the skiff.

More Concrete Needed

The County is still looking for concrete light poles and other concrete objects to stabilize this freighter.  One-hundred twenty-five tons of concrete have already been placed in the Voici Bernadette’s cargo hold.  Another 200 tons will be required to stabilize the ship at depths of 100 feet. Any company wishing to donate excess concrete to this project should contact the St. Lucie County Artificial Reef Program at (772) 462-1713 or [email protected]

Secondary Reef Grant Funding

St. Lucie County has also applied for grant funding through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Artificial Reef Program.  The grant application will help pay for another 1,500-ton secondary concrete reef to be deployed just north of the Voici Bernadette reef, allowing baitfish and other small juvenile fish to congregate in the lee of the freighter.  As part of this secondary concrete reef, the County will deploy at least two reef dart artificial reef modules to provide habitat for pelagic baitfish and predators.  Reef darts are a deep water, high profile (30-35 feet) module that have been designed by the West Palm Beach Fishing Club. Constructed at and staged from St. Lucie County’s Harbour Pointe Park staging area the modules are designed to provide additional habitat for baitfish seen on other artificial reefs in the area.  Together with the Voici Bernadette, this concrete reef will make an excellent boating destination and will also provide habitat for a diverse fish community.

For more information on the St. Lucie County Artificial Reef Program, or volunteer opportunities to help create oyster reefs in St. Lucie County or help with the deployment of the Voici Bernadette, contact Jim Oppenborn, St. Lucie County Coastal Resources Coordinator, at [email protected] or (772)462-1713.

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