Artificial reefs reel in millions for state economy

CHARLESTON,SC (WCSC)- On a sunny day, ten miles off Charleston's coast  war-weary tanks plunge into the deep blue sea.

It is an integral part of the  Reef-Ex program, a collaborative project between the Army National Guard and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, which aims to build artificial reefs off the coast.

"Most of our ocean bottom is flat, featureless sand, and when we do this we provide a substrate for the development of a natural reef community and eventually you get a lot of fish on there, which of course are of interest to fishermen," said Mel Bell of DNR. "It's also a place where recreational divers like to go and look around."

Bell said annually the artificial reefs rake in 83 million dollars for the state's economy when it comes to tourism.

"It's a very green type project  in that it does something in terms of creating productive fish habitat, so it's green from an environmental standpoint," said Bell. "It's also green from a standpoint of generating revenue for the state."

"Every vehicle is checked," said Col. Pete Brooks of the Army National Guard. "There's no fluids, no oils, no anything in these vehicles when we dump them into the ocean, and five years from now you've got a great artificial reef."

The project is a way of recycling the tanks, which cannot be melted down because their metal is too hard.

The discarded military materials have helped build 33 artificial reefs along the coast.

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