Ocean City Today

Ocean City Reef Foundation works on preservation front

Future reef installations required to keep historical artifacts found underwater
Sep 21, 2017
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(Sept, 22, 2017) The Ocean City Reef Foundation will continue creating habitats for fish and sea creatures, but now must take steps to preserve whatever historical properties that are underwater.

The foundation, Ocean City government and the Army Corps of Engineers have worked for decades to lay concrete, rock and other structures 3 to 9 nautical miles offshore to create artificial reefs. The city holds permits for five reefs that OC Reef Foundation created and maintains, like Russell’s Reef, the research reef and the African Queen Reef, which is named for the sunken oil tanker that created the habitat.

But permit renewals for the reefs hit a snag three years ago, when the Maryland State Historical Trust wanted to start surveying the ocean floor for historical properties.

“These people are concerned that we’re covering up old structures with our new structures,” Captain Monty Hawkins, the Reef Foundation director, told the City Council Monday night. “They just don’t get what we’re doing.”

“What they asked was very cost prohibitive,” City Engineer Terry McGean added. “It’s been a lengthy process with negotiations with the corps and the Maryland Historic Trust, but that’s resulted in the agreement that has additional requirements of the city. The corps requested there be some formal document to determine who’s responsible for what - which frankly, should have happened a while ago.”

Under the revised agreement, Ocean City officials must provide the corps a detailed description of a new reef deployment within 30 days before a proposed project’s launch. The description would include material used, the water’s depth and the breadth of the seabed that could be affected. The corps would notify Ocean City of the need for cultural resources investigations or provide notice to proceed after that description is examined.

If any parties have information suggesting a historical property may be located in a requested reef area, then a full identification and evaluation will be performed, a new memorandum of understanding states.

If historic properties investigations are required, a consultation meeting may be requested by the corps to review the methods of investigation, discuss the findings or what additional steps to take to further identify historic properties.

Ocean City will notify the corps and the trust within five days if any unidentified archeological resource is found during investigation.

The council unanimously voted to sign the agreement.

“We can’t thank the Reef Foundation enough for providing fish habitation,” Councilman Wayne Hartman said. “As we all know, the fishermen are great and this provides tourism. Let us know if there’s anything we can do to assist the foundation.”

Hawkins thanked the council, and added that Public Works was instrumental in providing materials to create reef foundations.

“We can take up to six tons of concrete out there.” he said. “I’m proud to tell you that we received $50,000 in grants from the Nature Conservancy. A national organization sees the benefits of putting structures out on the bottom of the ocean and growing coral. It’s making fishing and diving better and better.”

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