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Water: Oceans, Coasts, Estuaries & Beaches

Creating Artificial Reefs

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The purpose of creating an artificial reef is to benefit the environment by enhancing aquatic habitat and marine resources, as well as providing an option for conserving, managing, and developing fisheries resources.

Options for managing obsolete and decommisssioned military and commercial vessels include the reuse of the vessel or parts of the vessel, recycling or scrapping, creating artificial reefs, and disposal on land or at sea. Increasingly, coastal states are using these vessels as artificial reefs with the hope of attracting not only marine life, but divers and fishermen as well. Appropriate vessel clean-up and remediation along with reef site selection will maximize the opportunity for these vessels to benefit the environment as artificial reefs.

Many materials of concern may be present aboard vessels, including: fuels and oil, asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), paints, debris (e.g., vessel debris, floatables, and introduced material), and other materials (e.g. mercury, refrigerants). Because of the wide variety of potential pollutants and where these materials may be found on an given ship, each vessel-to-reef project is unique.

EPA chaired an interagency workgroup to develop best management practices to be used in the preparation of vessels for use as artificial reefs. This guidance document provides general clean-up performance goals and information on methods for achieving those goals. This guidance should be implemented for all permitted in-water uses of vessels; further vessel preparations may be needed based on the intended in-water use, (e.g., diver safety modifications if the vessel will also serve as a recreational dive attraction).

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