Standard Permit-Artificial Reefs
Regulatory authority for the deployment of artificial reefs is in accordance with Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbor Act and/or Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The extent of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jurisdiction for permitting artificial reefs extends from the mean high water line to the outer continental shelf. Reef construction within the territorial seas (3 nautical miles off the Atlantic coast of Florida) and inland waterways fall under the purview of Section 10 and Section 404 authority. Beyond the territorial sea, artificial reefs are considered under Section 10 authority only.
The Corps policy is that applicants are typically a government agency (city or county) due to liability and insurance issues. Applicants need to submit a joint Florida Department of Environmental Protection application for proposed artificial reefs within state waters for joint processing. Reefs constructed beyond state waters do not need a state permit; only a federal permit from the Corps is needed.
The basic form of authorization for an artificial reef is a standard permit. Processing and evaluating the proposal can be done in three steps: pre-application consultation, formal project review and decision making. You are encouraged to contact the local Corps of Engineers field office in your area prior to submitting a new permit application.
New reef sites are typically ¼ nautical miles by ¼ nautical miles. The smaller size sites make it easier to monitor the effectiveness, durability and stability of the deployed material on the sea floor, a public resource. Permits are issued for ten years. Reissuance of the permit is required if the time frame for the construction window expires.
Pre-application consultation usually involves a meeting between the applicant, Corps, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and interested stakeholders. Pre-application consultation is needed for new reef sites or material not typically used for artificial reefs. The Corps and FWC will determine if a stakeholder should be invited to the meeting, where the location and orientation of the reef is the main topic of discussion. The proposed material for deployment and the management of the proposed reef may also be discussed. Interested stakeholders may include representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, State Historic Preservation Office, local port facilities, shrimping industry, etc. The purpose of the meeting is to provide informal discussions before the applicant expends resources (time, funds, preliminary deployment inspections, etc.). The process is designed to inform the applicant of the factors the Corps must consider in its decision making process. This discussion prior to submitting a permit application enables the application to be processed more efficiently. The proposed reef site needs to be situated in an area where there are no conflicting uses of the aquatic resource; such as transit lanes for shipping, an active shrimping area, or cable or utility line rights-of-way.
Material used for artificial reefs must be durable and stable in a 20-year return interval storm event at the requested depth. The material should not move off the proposed reef site or substantially break up with resultant loss of habitat value. To receive funding from FWC the proposed artificial reefs should be effective for a minimum of 20 years. The deployment of material from the following list, which has proven to be durable and stable, would expedite the processing of an application. These materials should weigh at least 500 pounds and be clean and free from asphalt, creosote, petroleum, other hydrocarbons and toxic residues, loose free floating material or other deleterious substances. Materials/structures will be configured and constructed to be stable in a 20-year return interval storm event at the depth of placement. Materials will be designed, selected and deployed in such a manner as to avoid entrapping marine life.
1. Prefabricated artificial reef modules that are composed of ferrous and/or aluminum-alloy metals ¼ inch or more in thickness, concrete, rock or a combination of these materials.
2. Natural rock boulders and other pre-cast concrete material, such as, culverts, stormwater junction boxes, power poles, railroad ties, jersey barriers or other similar concrete material.
3. Large concrete building demolition materials, such as bridges, with all steel reinforcement rods severed to ensure the rods will not create a fishing tackle or diver ensnaring hazard.
4. Heavy gauge ferrous & aluminum alloy metal material components or structures, ¼ inch or more in thickness, such as utility poles and antenna towers.
5. Heavy gauge ferrous & aluminum alloy metal hulled vessels that equal or exceed 60 ft. hull length, prepared and deployed in accordance with all applicable U. S. Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or other applicable state or federal agency regulations or policies. The vessel will not be deployed until all necessary inspections and clearances have been obtained or waived and a stability analysis has been completed, demonstrating that the vessel will be stable during a 50-year storm event based on vessel and deployment site characteristics. The permittee shall follow the national guidance regarding preparation of vessels for deployment as artificial reefs.
The formal project review consists of submitting an application that provides complete information and details of the project. The review is needed for new reef sites, existing reef sites in which the construction window has expired or for material not previously used as an artificial reef. The following information is required for review by the Corps:
- Name, address and phone number of applicant.
- Permit number, if site was previously permitted.
- Complete description of the proposed project, including the type and quantity of material to be discharged, how the material will be transported to the proposed site and deployment method.
- Provisions for siting, constructing, monitoring, operating, maintaining and managing the proposed artificial reef.
- The project location of the site in degree decimal format. This should be clearly marked on the most recent National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chart (New reef sites are typically ¼ nautical miles by ¼ nautical miles). The NOAA drawing needs to be on 8.5 inch by 11 inch page.
After the application is received by the Corps, it will be assigned an identification number and reviewed for completeness. A request for additional information may be sent, if necessary for the Corps to review the proposed project. Within 15 days of receiving all the required information, a public notice will be issued with a 15- to 30-day comment period. The proposal is then reviewed by the Corps, local, state and federal agencies, stakeholders, special interest groups and the general public. Concurrently with the public notice, the Corps will consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service, Protected Species Division and possibly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The consultation is required under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act for any endangered or threatened species that may be affected by the project.
After the comment period, the Corps will review all of the comments and consult with other federal and state agencies where appropriate. Additional time may be needed if there are endangered species concerns.
The project manager in the decision making process evaluates the comments received, negotiates necessary modifications of the project if required, and drafts appropriate documentation to support a recommended permit decision. The permit decision document includes a discussion of the environmental impacts of the project, the findings of the public interest review process, and any special evaluation required by the project.
The permit, if issued, will contain special conditions to ensure the material is deployed within the project boundaries, does not create a hazard to navigation, and the deployment will not have an adverse affect on endangered species. The following list contains conditions that are typically added to a permit. The list is provided as a guideline; other conditions may be added if appropriate. Please note, monitoring conditions for reefs that are deployed as mitigation for hard bottom substrate is not included. The standard conditions are as follows:
1. Reporting Addresses: The Permittee shall reference the permit number, SAJ-0000-00000, on all correspondence. Unless specifically notified to the contrary, the Permittee shall use the following addresses for transmitting correspondence to the referenced agencies:
a. For hard copies:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Division, Special Projects and Enforcement Branch, and Enforcement PM Address. The Permittee shall reference the permit number, SAJ-0000-00000, on all correspondence.
b. For email:
c. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Office of Coast Survey, N/CS26, Sta. 7317
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Springs, MD, 20910-3282
d. Commander, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)
[Enter in the mailing address of the USCG office for your Sector].
e. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
Artificial Reef Program
620 S. Meridian Street, Box 4B2
Tallahassee, FL 32399
email: Jon.Dodrill@myfwc.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com
2. Initial Agency Notification: The Permittee shall provide to the Corps, NOAA and USCG written notification of the planned deployment start date at least two weeks prior to the initial deployment on the authorized artificial reef site.
3. Protection of Existing Resources: The Permittee shall not deploy artificial reef materials until an assessment of the bottom conditions have been accomplished by diver, submersible video camera, fathometer, depth/bottom sounder (e.g. "fish finder") or side-scan sonar. The inspection of the deployment area may occur at the time of deployment but no more than one year prior to deployment. The Permittee shall maintain a deployment buffer of at least 200 feet from any submerged beds of sea grasses, coral reefs, live bottom, areas supporting growth of sponges, sea fans, soft corals and other sessile macroinvertebrates generally associated with rock outcrops, oyster reefs, scallop beds, clam beds or areas where there are unique or unusual concentrations of bottom dwelling marine organisms. If, during the inspection, evidence is observed of cultural/archaeological resources, such as sunken vessels, ballast, historic refuse piles, or careenage areas the Corps will be notified by the Permittee and the above referenced deployment buffer will be implemented. The Permittee shall maintain a record of the information gained during the inspection such that it can be provided upon request to the Corps.
4. Pre-Deployment Notification: No less than 14 days prior to deployment of material on an artificial reef, the Permittee shall transmit by electronic mail ("email") a complete and signed "Florida Artificial Reef Materials Cargo Manifest and Pre-Deployment Notification" form, provided in Attachment 1 of the permit, to the Corps and FWC to allow inspection of the proposed reef materials as deemed necessary by the agencies. Inspection is allowable at the staging area. By signing the Pre-Deployment Notification the Permittee certifies that all materials are free from asphalt, petroleum, other hydrocarbons and toxic residues. The Permittee shall not deploy material if notified by the Corps or FWC that the material is questionable. The material needs to be evaluated and released for deployment. Any material that is deemed unacceptable for reef material will be disposed in an approved upland disposal site.
Deployment of the material shall not occur until after the end of the 14-day inspection period. The Permittee shall ensure both a copy of the Corps permit and the signed "Florida Artificial Reef Materials Cargo Manifest and Pre-Deployment Notification form" are maintained aboard the deployment vessel at all times during loading, transit and deployment.
5. Post-Deployment Placement Report/As-Built Drawing: No less than 30 days after deployment at the reef site, the Permittee shall transmit by email to the Corps and FWC a complete and signed "Florida Artificial Reef Materials Placement Report and Post-Deployment Notification" form provided in Attachment 2 of the permit. Please note, the Corps requires the latitude and longitude to be accurate within five meters horizontal distance on the post-deployment report. Attached to the report, an as-built drawing that contains the approximate deployment configurations and the height of the material after placement. Depth shall be verified utilizing fathometer, depth sounder, or similar device accurate to within one meter. Also, include information on the condition of the material at the time of deployment. The report and drawing shall be limited to a few pages per deployment. Representative photographs and/or video, if available, are encouraged to be submitted.
6. Ownership/Maintenance/Liability: By signing the permit, the Permittee certifies and acknowledges ownership of all artificial reef materials deployed on the reef, accepts responsibility for maintenance of the artificial reef and possesses the ability to assume liability for all damages that may arise with respect to the artificial reef.
7. Assurance of Navigation and Maintenance: The Permittee understands and agrees that, if future operations by the United States require the removal, relocation, or other alteration, of the structures or work herein authorized, or if in the opinion of the Secretary of the Army or his authorized representative, said structure or work shall cause unreasonable obstruction to the free navigation of the navigable waters, the Permittee will be required, upon due notice from the Corps of Engineers, to remove, relocate, or alter the structural work or obstructions caused thereby, without expense to the United States. No claim shall be made against the United States on account of any such removal or alteration.
Additional Special Conditions may be required if there are Endangered Species Concerns.
8. Sea Turtle/Sawfish/Sturgeon Guidelines: The Permittee shall comply with the National Marine Fisheries Service's "Sea Turtle and Smalltooth Sawfish Construction Conditions," which also apply to sturgeon, provided in Attachment 3 of the permit.
9. Manatee Protection: The Permittee shall ensure that wharf fenders are installed to reduce the risk of a vessel crushing a manatee. The wharf fenders shall be installed with appropriate materials to provide sufficient standoff space of at least three feet under compression. Fenders or buoys providing a minimum standoff space of at least three feet under compression shall be utilized between two vessels that are moored together.
The below Special Conditions are for the protection of Right whales. Their critical habitat is on the east coast of Florida starting north of the Florida border and continues south to the Cape Canaveral area.
10. Protected Species Guidance: The Permittee shall comply with the "Vessel Strike Avoidance Measures and Injured or Dead Protected Species Reporting" guidance for marine turtles and marine mammals, provided in Attachment 3 of the permit.
11. Right Whale Protection: Artificial reef material shall not be transported or deployed between November 15 and April 15 for the conservation of the endangered Northern Right Whale within the boundaries of the NMFS designated Northern Right Whale Southeastern United States critical habitat area. Links to the NMFS critical habitat area maps can be found at the following web sites:
Background Information: For decades the Corps permitted the deployment of artificial reefs off the coast of Florida. Deployed material consist of tugs, barges, and concrete material, such as culverts, stormwater junction boxes, power poles, railroad ties, jersey barriers or other similar concrete material. In the 1990s the Corps started working with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) due to concerns over shipping interests off the east coast of Florida. The agencies worked together to ensure transit lanes were established for both port facilities and military bases. The shrimping industry also became interested in the proposed location of reef sites because river shrimping is limited and off-shore shrimping became more restrictive. Needless to say, the siting of artificial reefs has become complex over time due to shipping and fishing interests.
More information about factors considered by the Corps during permit review for Artificial Reefs is located at 33 CFR 322.5 (b).
More information regarding the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's program is located at:
Corps Regulatory Jurisdiction for Artificial Reefs