2007-07-26 / Top News

New county artificial reef project hit by snags

Old Causeway roadbed crumbling before it's dumped into the Gulf
BY MICHELLE L. START Florida Weekly Correspondent

FLORIDA WEEKLY PHOTO Workers dump concrete pilings from the old Sanibel Causeway to form an artificial reef. FLORIDA WEEKLY PHOTO Workers dump concrete pilings from the old Sanibel Causeway to form an artificial reef. Lee County's newest artificial reef project is not going quite as well as hoped, said Chris Koepfer, a supervisor with Lee County Division of Natural Resources.

"We're tied up with the (Sanibel) Causeway right now. The contractor hired to do the demolition is having trouble breaking apart road sections into pieces we can use," he said. "The concrete is crumbling. We are getting a lot of rebar. Too much of it is being exposed, which causes a safety and entanglement issue."

Rebar is short for a reinforcing bar, which is commonly made out of steel and helps to support concrete and masonry structures.

Started in 1990, Lee County's natural resources artificial reef program deploys two to four structures a year. Thus far, one of the most successful has been the old Edison Bridge, where some 99 species of fish have been found since it was sunk 14 years ago.

"That is a very, very diverse site," said Koepfer. "On any dive, you will see 30 to 40 species of fish out there. All of the nooks and crannies provide habitat for a larger variety of species."

Construction of the new causeway, to replace the one opened in 1963, began in 2004. As new spans are completed, the older ones are demolished. Some pilings from construction have already been sunk as part of the artificial reef project, but officials with Natural Resources were looking forward to sinking the road bed in hopes that it would prove to be as successful as the Edison Reef.

"We don't have any leverage. The contract is written saying that the contractor could use any or all of the material for an artificial reef. But, it doesn't require them to take it all offshore. Typically, it is cheaper for them that way because then they don't have to transport it over the road," Koepfer said. "It's disappointing. You never quite know how these things will work out. We just knew it would have made a very productive site, though. But, the project isn't over yet. The contractor just got started (on the demolition). I'm hoping, as he gets more experience, the parts will come apart better."

Jacobs Construction Services, Inc. is managing the bridge project but the demolition has been subcontracted out to a company called Testa Corp., which is based in Massachusetts. No one could be reached at Testa to comment.

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