Osborne Reef restoration plan advances to final Senate committee

osborne reef
Around 500,000 to 1 million tires remain on the sea floor.

People tend to receive a shock when looking for the first time at the hundreds of thousands of tires that lie on the sea bed not far off the beach near Fort Lauderdale.

A Senate committee advanced a bill this week that could go a significant distance in getting those tires out of the water. The tires arrived there through a bad plan with good intentions in the 1970s. 

Under the theory that it would be beneficial, instead of a catastrophe, a project went forward at Osborne Reef, dumping around 2 million tires, lashed together with ropes and secured with metal clips. Those ropes broke and clips gave out as storms and natural action of the sea took their toll.

Subsequently, the tires scattered, causing serious damage to nearby corals and marine habitat.

The state became involved in 2002, with work going in fits and starts over subsequent years. As of August 2016, efforts by military personnel, divers and others removed some 207,000 tires. This bill is meant to provide the momentum to finish the job, which covers another 500,000 to 1 million tires.

“Several programs have attempted to remove the tires,” according to the Senate staff analysis.

“For example, in 2001, a small tire retrieval program was conducted by Dr. Robin Sherman of Nova Southeastern University with a $30,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Approximately 1,600 tires were retrieved at a cost of over $17 per tire. Due to the magnitude and cost of such projects, however, most of the tires have not been removed.”

Under SB 546, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would have to submit a report to the Legislature detailing the condition of the remaining Osborne Reef structure, any steps taken toward restoration, the number of tires retrieved, the number of tires remaining underwater, and the estimated timeline for the project’s completion.

“Right now, (DEP is) working with other agencies at the federal, state and local levels, and they’re working with (non-governmental organizations) as well as regional partners to try to get as much out as possible,” Miami-Dade Republican Sen. Bryan Avila said in an earlier committee.

There was no debate or public testimony as the bill came up in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources and General Government.

DEP would also need a comprehensive restoration plan developed by July 2024. Department staff estimate in-water assessments for the restoration plan will take six to nine months and cost around $500,000.

Representatives from the Sierra Club, the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) Florida, and the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association waived in support.

The bill, which passed unanimously, next moves to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe

One comment

  • David Pakman

    April 13, 2023 at 3:39 pm

    Conservative governance at its finest. Dump a million tires into the ocean.🤡

Comments are closed.


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