The artificial reef site called the "Charleston Deep Reef" is a 4 by 6 mile area located approximately 52 nautical miles southeast of Charleston Harbor. Water depths range from about 300 to 450 feet.
The area was selected with the assistance of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council after reviewing their database of known live-bottom areas off South Carolina. This particular area was chosen because of its lack of live or hard bottom, a necessity for an artificial reef construction site.
From its inception, the reef site was planned as a potential deep water Marine Protected Area, an area of ocean bottom with limited angling activity, for the protection of over-fished snapper and grouper species.
The site was permitted by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 2005 and added to the SAFMCs list of other potential MPA areas in Amendment 14 of the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. This amendment was approved by the Council in 2007 and by NOAA Fisheries Service in 2008 making the Charleston Deep Reef the state's first artificial reef Type II MPA, a designation that prohibits bottom fishing for snapper or grouper but allows surface trolling for species such as billfish or dolphin.
As originally permitted, the reef was to be constructed from the steel super-structures of the old Cooper River Bridges.
Once the new bridge was built, these large structures were to be removed relatively intact and barged to the reef site.
However, as demolition plans commenced the price of scrap metal rose dramatically and the SC Department of Transportation decided to recoup some of its construction costs by scrapping the steel portions of the old bridges. Without suitable materials to construct the reef, it remains unbuilt.
The South Carolina Memorial Reef is a private effort to raise funds to begin the building of the Charleston Deep Reef project.
In cooperation with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), the South Carolina Memorial Reef will become the first significant contribution to the Charleston Deep Reef project.
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