The Surfrider Foundation: Protecting Oceans, Waves and Beaches since 1984

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Project: Clean Water

River Reef Project

River Reef Project

Project Description

Artificial Reefs can be made of many types of man-made structures as long as they are non-toxic to the estuarine environment and can provide stable habitat, meaning that they won’t roll around from boat traffic or storms, possibly damaging natural reef areas.

Often, specially designed reef units are made that have a specific shape and are made of poured concrete.  A popular patented artificial reef system known as Reefball™ is one example of such and has been used worldwide for the formulation of artificial reefs. These reefs often have specialized purposes such as providing habitat in areas where the bottom is less stable or providing substrate for a specific size creature. Small artificial reef units are placed in estuaries to provide habitat for juvenile marine creatures. These types of habitat are often called “nursery reefs”.

Concrete Goals

Martin County has successfully completed two projects for use as nursery reefs within the Indian River Lagoon Estuary. These two sites have been specially permitted. One site is located behind of the Florida Oceanographic Society Coastal Center and the other site is next to the dock structure at the Indian Riverside Park. Additionally, a third site is currently permitted and underway in conjunction with F.L.O.O.R. (Florida Oceanographic Oyster Restoration). This site is located in Stuart, at Flagler Park, and is part of the larger Martin County Oyster Reef Restoration Project in which 27 acres of oyster reef have been restored in the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee Rivers.

Specific Plan

The Martin County River Reef Participant Programs are held throughout the year as we create our artificial nursery reef environments. The Florida Oceanographic Society and the Environmental Studies Center will be the two main program facilitators for the River Reefs Project. One and two-day programs will be held throughout the year inviting all Martin County school children and many civic groups to participate in this all important education and enhancement project. A mobilized trailer unit is now available that can also be brought directly to schools or to civic functions for those willing participants.

For upcoming program dates and opportunities to participate contact:
Benjamin D’Avanzo, Enviro-Force 772-285-2046 or

Florida Oceanographic Society (772-225-0505) or

Project Leaders

Sponsors include the Florida Oceanographic Society (FOS), the Environmental Studies Center (ESC), The ReefBall Foundation, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC). The program is headed by the Martin County Board of County Commissioners Coastal Engineering Department (Coastal Engineer Kathy Fitzpatrick), coordinated by Enviro-Force (Benjamin D’Avanzo), and facilitated by staff of the Florida Oceanographic Society and the Environmental Studies Center.

Promotion & Documentation

The Martin County River Reefs Project is jointly funded by the Martin County Board of County Commissioners, the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). FIND’s main directive is the maintenance of the inland waterway. However, its Waterway Assistance Program (WAP) provides funding for many different projects including restoration and environmental awareness efforts that will educate the populace on the importance of waterways, estuaries and river systems.