Here's a story from today's Sun-Sentinel.
Navy divers went into the water off Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday to assess the feasibility of hauling up thousands of tires that had been dumped there in the 1970s in a disastrous attempt to create an artificial reef.The best laid plans of mice and government bureaucrats. Don't you just love it?
A Virginia-based salvage unit, whose divers are trained to clear harbors and raise sunken ships, probed the ocean off Sunrise Boulevard in a project that offers hope of solving one of South Florida's most bizarre and intractable environmental problems.
More than 30 years ago, with government approval, recreational fishing groups dumped an estimated 1 million to 2 million tires off Broward County to create a huge artificial reef. On a single day in 1972, as the Goodyear blimp flew overhead, more than 100 boats headed off shore to heave tires into the water. Like similar efforts around the country, the project was intended to build structures that would attract fish by providing hiding places and vertical formations in the ocean.
But few fish showed up. Worse, many tires broke free of their nylon bonds and damaged the real reefs where the fish did live. Today, the tires cover about 36 acres of ocean floor, where they continue to harm corals, sponges and other marine life.
But where environmental officials saw a disaster, the Navy saw a training opportunity.
Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Mikulski, of the Navy's Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two, said the operation in 60 or 70 feet of water would provide good experience for young divers. "I have to find things to do to train them," he said. "Those are perfect jobs for them. Those are deep dives. They take a lot of endurance. They take a lot of training in order to execute them safely."
There are several ways to haul up the tires, Mikulski said. Divers could bundle them in lines tied to buoys. Or they could use salvage baskets. Or -- the option that he said was most likely -- they could lay cargo nets on the ocean floor, load them with tires, attach the nets to buoys and haul them up to a ship. He estimated the divers could haul up 800 tires a day.
At that rate, if the worst estimate of the number of tires is correct, it would take about seven years to haul them all up. But no one expects that they will try to retrieve every tire. They will focus on the worst spots, where loose tires are smacking into coral reefs.
No one knows yet what the project will cost. The Navy would pay most costs of retrieval, because the work would be a training exercise. The big unknown costs involve disposal.
Over the next few weeks, once the Navy divers bring sample tires ashore, the Florida DEP will take them to companies that recycle or dispose of used tires. While tires were piling up in dumps in the 1970s, today most are burned for energy or recycled. The sheer number of tires won't be the problem. The department has dealt with more, including a 20-million-tire pile in Polk County. But these tires will be different from the sort tire processors normally see.
Many are crusted with barnacles. Others provide home for corals, which will need to be preserved and restored to the ocean. "They're going to be kind of stinky and smelly and perhaps have stinging organisms on them," said Jan Rae Clark, environmental manager for DEP's solid waste section.
Just more proof that so called science is really guess work. I've said it before. We spent millions putting this 'reef' in place and now will spend how many times more removing it. The experts thought they were right 34 years ago? Why should we trust them today?
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