Tappan Zee artificial reefs research could be used to enhance offshore wind projects
After spending 62 years above the Hudson River, the Tappan Zee Bridge's legacy lives on below the water's surface.
The bridge was recycled nearly five years ago to create new a habitat for life in the ocean. A team of marine ecologists from Stony Brook University is diving into how these artificial reefs are impacting ecosystems.
News 12 was invited along for the first dive of the season at the Shinnecock Artificial Reef - one of 12 artificial reefs surrounding Long Island and New York City.
Stony Brook University Ph.D. student Brittney Scannell is studying the artificial reefs for her dissertation.
"Black sea bass actually, on Long Island, return to the artificial reef every year," she explained.
Dr. Bradley Peterson, associate professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University says their research shows the reefs are benefiting commercial and recreational fishing.
"There are fish that come and feed there and if you take enough imagery over time, you can see the growth of these fish, which means that they are not just attracted, they are actually growing," he said. "What in science we would call ‘secondary production,’ they are growing as a result of the reef."
Scannel said sharks treat the artificial reefs like a fast-food highway and points to their research showing many sharks foraging on the reefs.
The data they are collecting could be used to build artificial reefs at the base of offshore wind turbines. New York currently has nine offshore wind projects actively being developed in the ocean.
"I think when they put the scourer material and when they put the wind turbines it's going to act very similar to these vessels or these rock drops that they put out there," said Dr. Peterson. "They are going to be coated with mussels, animals are going to be attracted to it."
It's a way to find new uses for old treasures and pave the way toward a green future above and below the water's surface.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released a statement to News 12:
“New York is focused on achieving its climate and clean energy goals in a responsible manner that minimizes potential impacts to our marine resources. DEC works cooperatively with local, state, and federal organizations in reviewing energy projects that will affect New York's marine habitat, wildlife, fisheries, and maritime users. DEC remains committed to reviewing and evaluating all projects with the best information and science available to ensure we're protecting and conserving our rich diversity of sea life as we transition to renewable, green energy.”