Artificial Reef Permitting
In order to legally establish an artificial reef in coastal waters, a permit must be acquired. The Taylor County Artificial Reef Program re-permitted the existing "Buckeye" reef area in January 2011 (also visit the Taylor County Artificial Reef coordinates from FWC), while the development of a new site will depend on the amount of public support and assistance for the program.
The Permitting Process
Establishing a new artifical reef site requires a rigorous application process that may take 6-9 months or more. The regulatory responsibility for issuing an artificial reef permit is carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) for proposed artificial reef areas in federal waters, and by both the ACOE and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in state waters (State waters extend to 3 nautical miles on the Atlantic and 9 nautical miles on the Gulf). The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Artificial Reef Program ensures that all requirements are met and approves reef site development before passing it on to ACOE.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Requirements
- In evaluating an artificial reef permit application, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) must ensure the project is consistent with the Corps regulations published in 33 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Parts 320-330. The Corps is also tasked with ensuring an artificial reef, if permitted is in accordance with the appropriate provisions of the National Fishing Enhancement Act (NFEA) of 1984.
- Section 203 of the National Fishing Enhancement Act (NFEA) of 1984 requires that artificial reefs should, based on best scientific evidence available be sited, constructed, monitored and managed with five standards in mind. The Corps utilizes these standards when evaluating all artificial reef permit applications. The five standards are: 1) enhancing fishery resources to the maximum extent practicable; 2) facilitating access and utilization of the reef by recreational and commercial fishermen; 3) minimizing conflicts among competing uses and resources in waters covered by the Act (i.e. EEZ); 4) minimizing environmental risks and risks to personal health and property; 5) and to be consistent with generally accepted principles of international law by not creating any unreasonable obstruction to navigation.
- To more fully define the objective of the proposed reef, please state the type of habitat to be restored and the target species to be enhanced. This is important in the review of the application since target species drive reef location, water depth, method of construction, reef profile and complexity, and management of the reef. The physical, chemical, and biological constraints of the target species will assist Corps in evaluating the selection of the reef site.
- On-site surveys are required since site characteristics play a critical role in the approval of a proposed site. Site characteristics that should be evaluated, as outlined in the National Artificial reef plan include substrate types, water depths, prevailing currents, wave energy levels, existing habitat types, local fishery resources, cultural resources, general water quality, and traditional, existing, and other possible uses of the sites. The site assessment should include a biological survey and a detailed description of the location of the potential reef site using latitude and longitude.
- Explain how the reef will be designed to meet your reef program objectives, address the needs of the target species, and document that the reef design and method of construction are compatible with site conditions.
- Monitoring is required to ensure compliance with the Corps permit and the standards established in Section 203 of the National Fishing Enhancement Act. Monitoring of reef material ensures that the material has not moved from the deployment site. Monitoring should occur at reasonable intervals and after severe storms.
- Corps regulations require deployment notifications prior to and after placement of the reef material and are considered part of the reef monitoring process. Monitoring is important to ensure proper placement, orientation, and depths above deployed materials. Please explain how monitoring and maintenance in accordance with the NARP and Corps regulations will be accomplished for your proposed reef.
- A Management Plan for the reef is also required. Management plans are a result of clear reef program objectives. If a reef is beyond state territorial waters, coordination with the appropriate Fishery Management Commissions is required to ensure the reef objectives and management are consistent with FMC fishery management plans.
- The application package must address liability issues. An Army Corps permit may not be issued unless the applicant demonstrates the financial ability to assume liability for all damages that may arise with respect to an artificial reef for which an entity becomes the permittee.
- U.S. Coast Guard must be contacted to determine the need, if any for navigational buoys.
In summary the Corps stated “Any permit issued for this project must be consistent with the requirements governing the permitting of artificial reefs. If the applicant cannot clearly show that the project meets these requirements, the project will be determined to be contrary to the public interest and a permit will not be issued.”