Workers are planning to dump 18,000 tons of concrete into the Gulf of Mexico—for a good reason. Hurricanes and changing currents have destroyed the reef system in Gulf waters around Florida's Collier County, according to the Community Foundation of Collier County, so the county, along with the cities of Marco and Naples, came up with a plan: The concrete will be placed on the Gulf floor to form what workers say will be the biggest artificial reef in the Western Hemisphere, the Houston Chronicle reports. In fact, 36 individual reefs will be built simultaneously in groups of six, and "we can continue to add more reefs once this is done," says a member of the region's Economic Recovery Task Force. Workers have been inspecting the concrete—some of it old piping—to make sure it's safe for the ocean.
The $1.5 million project is being funded in part by a grant from the BP oil spill restoration fund, along with private donations, and advocates hope that—in addition to boosting the local marine ecosystem—the reef system will ultimately bring in $30 million to the area annually. The reefs could offer a safe habitat for young sport fish, which are popular with Gulf fishermen, and should also create a popular area for divers to explore. Users of other artificial reefs in Florida have created thousands of jobs, the Naples Daily News reports. On Jan. 8, the ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on a barge loaded with material for the reef; next December, the concrete will set out into the Gulf by flotilla. The project is expected to take six months to complete, and the attorney who dreamed it up says fish could start moving in as soon as 12 hours after the reef is created. (Something else that's falling into the Gulf of Mexico: Louisiana.)