Archive for March 16th, 2009

Tires off of Fort Lauderdale Beach

Tires off of Fort Lauderdale Beach

By Richie Gerber

Fort Lauderdale: Venice of America. What a beautiful slogan for this wonderful city in paradise. Over three hundred miles of waterways connect all parts of Greater Fort Lauderdale. Restaurants, hotels, homes and more can be reached by boat in this city of lovely canals.


About a mile or so north of Port Everglades, we stumble on what some call “the worst disaster to the Florida Reefs in history”. As you will soon see it was a recipe for ruin. A stupid idea, supported by stupid science and stupid scientific experts, combined with stupid local and national governmental agencies with stupid leaders, created devastation of immense proportions. Stupid businesses donated stupid money to get publicity and then the stupid media made sure everyone knew about this “wonderful project”. This horrible “reef building” experiment was lauded as a grand step forward for artificial reef building. What were they smoking?

In the spring of 1972, over two million tires were strapped together in bundles of 10 and dumped in the Atlantic Ocean in order to form an artificial reef.

Starting to sound fishy already, right?

The idea was twofold. Create an artificial reef where fish can thrive as well as increase the coral population. Snorkelers, divers, fishermen and more from around the world will come to Fort Lauderdale and frolic around in this man made underwater marvel. It also solves the problem of what to do with 2 million mosquito-infested tires in landfills while creating a man made underwater wonder. Win-win.  The old adage, out of sight out of mind, played a part in all this as well. I would edit the adage to fit into this reality, out of sight out of your freaking mind.

So, on a beautiful spring day in 1972 a Goodyear blimp dropped a gold painted tire into the ocean to “christen” the site. Goodyear also helped bind and compress the tires. In their press release at the time they said the reef would “provide a haven for fish and other species”, as well as lauding “the excellent properties of scrap tires as reef material.”  Over 100 private boats loaded with tires and volunteers set out in a flotilla to dump the first load of what would eventually end up as over 2 million tires off Fort Lauderdale’s pristine beach. Even to this day, over 35 years later, plants and coral refuse to grow on the tires. Fish refuse to swim and frolic near the tires in what was supposed to be a haven for them. It is considered by many to be a “dead zone”. Nothing. Nada. It is a desolate and eerie moonscape of a tire dump at the bottom of the ocean. A disaster.

Many of the nylon or steel straps used to belt together the tires into bundles of 10 have broken so now we have lots and lots of loose tires shifting with the currents. When the seas are rough as well as during storms and hurricanes the tires shift and travel far and wide. So the disaster is growing. Tire sprawl. Over the years the disaster site has grown. Tires are shifting in all directions spreading destruction and devastation to the neighboring reefs. The problem keeps expanding doing more and more harm to the reefs as well as leaching toxic chemicals from the breakdown of the tires. No fish, no divers, no snorkelers, no fauna can be found at this constantly expanding “Dead Zone”. It is our own underwater Chernobyl.

Ep-Bee-Log: Some efforts have been made to collect the tires but no real headway is in sight. The reason is that they might gather up a few thousand tires. Then we get a storm or rough seas and many of the remaining millions of tires just fill back in as if nothing has happened. The State of Florida along with the Army Corps of Engineers has implemented a full-scale salvage project to run through 2010 at a cost of $3.4 million. It is a very time consuming job and will produce in my opinion questionable results. I for one think they are just spinning their tires in the sand.


 Photos courtesy of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection



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