In August 2020, Alabama Power partnered with the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Marine Division (ADCNR/MRD) to deploy an artificial reef about eight miles off the coast of Dauphin Island.
The reef consists of three repurposed tanks from Barry Steam Plant. It was the first of 26 artificial reefs deployed in AWF’s Nearshore Artificial Reef Zone. The zone encompasses 7.5 square miles of Gulf waters eight miles south of Dauphin Island at approximately 60-70 feet below surface level.
Artificial reefs are crucial to preserving and increasing the populations of vibrant, biologically diverse marine animals that inhabit our waters. By constructing reefs in the nearshore zones, it creates connectivity between inshore and offshore habitats. Reefs also increase the availability of hard-bottom habitats, thus enhancing opportunities for foraging, sheltering, and spawning various fish species.
“While the artificial reef constructed by Alabama Power with the three storage tanks in 2020 is relatively new, a wide variety of fish and invertebrates are already utilizing the structures as habitat,” said Craig Newton, Biologist from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Marine Division. “A variety of crabs, shrimps, polychaetes and cryptic finfishes will colonize reefs such as the Alabama Power reef shortly after construction. These lower trophic level organisms then provide ample foraging opportunities for higher trophic level organisms.”
Fishes such as Red Snapper, Gray Snapper, Gray Triggerfish and Sheepshead soon begin to feed on the diverse prey assemblage that attempts to use the artificial reefs as refuge and shelter. Within a few years, a complex biological community will establish at the reef. It will begin functioning as a natural reef, which are extremely limited along the Gulf of Mexico water bottoms offshore of Alabama.
“Partnerships between ADCNR/MRD and members of the public service industry are extremely beneficial. Not only do projects such as the Alabama Power reef benefit the conservation objectives of our agency, but they also provide a cost-saving benefit to their customers. Not only does the Alabama Power reef help support our wonderful fisheries, but it also provided a cost-saving benefit to the customers of Alabama Power. Projects that are conservationally and fiscally beneficial to the citizens of Alabama take a visionary mindset to execute and the ADCNR/MRD applauds Alabama Power for their commitment to conservation and their customers,” Newton noted.
Reefs like the one deployed by the team at Alabama Power enhance opportunities for popular outdoor activities like fishing, snorkeling and SCUBA diving. These activities provide visitors and locals with more ways to get outside and enjoy our coastal environment, thus garnering a greater appreciation for conservation, preservation and sustainability.
“Alabama Power is very proud to partner with the Alabama Wildlife Federation and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to establish this fishing reef. This reef not only benefits our environment but also benefits our economy,” said Patrick Murphy, Vice President, Alabama Power Mobile Division. “I appreciate the Plant Barry team for their hard work in making this reef project a reality, providing opportunities for anglers who visit our coast and enjoy the fishing opportunities provided here.”
While Alabama already has one of the most extensive artificial reef programs in the United States, this project, led by Alabama Power, will continue to diversify and advance the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s efforts to preserve and protect marine life along the Alabama Gulf Coast.