Author: Patricia Smith
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Program, in partnership with the Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef Committee, sank the first of three tugboats off the coast of Pea Island on Monday.
The towing vessel American is the first addition to AR-165, a new reef site, about 7 miles south of the Oregon Inlet sea buoy off Dare County. This tug is part a project to place three vessels and 7,000 tons of concrete pipe on the reef that was organized by the Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef Committee. Funded by a Coastal Recreational Fishing License grant and a large donation by TW’s Bait and Tackle of Nags Head, the project will be ongoing through early spring.
The American is an 88-foot tugboat built in 1951 by the Chesapeake Marine Railway Company of Baltimore for the Consolidated Gas and Electric Company of Baltimore. Originally named G&E #3, the tug has since gone through several owners and name changes and was retired from service in 2012.
The tug was cleaned of environmental pollutants in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations prior to reefing. Its placement leaves a navigational clearance of approximately 30 feet.
The division plans to sink remaining tugboats, America (104 feet) and Valley Forge (110 feet) later this winter. Concrete pipe deployments will occur in early spring.
GPS coordinates for AR-165 are: 35° 41.672’ N, 75° 26.313’ W.
An artificial reef is a manmade underwater structure, typically built to promote marine life in areas with a generally featureless bottom. In North Carolina, they serve as crucial spawning and foraging habitat for many commercially and recreationally important fish species.
The division maintains 68 artificial reefs, located from estuarine waters to 38 miles from shore. They are situated so that they can be reached from every maintained inlet in the state.
For more information, about the program or the tugboat reefing, contact Artificial Reef Program Coordinator Jordan Byrum at 252-808-8036 or Jordan.Byrum@ncdenr.gov.