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TNC and DEM to Construct First Artificial Reef in Upper Narragansett Bay

This week, The Nature Conservancy and the RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM) are constructing an artificial reef near Sabin Point Park in East Providence to improve bottom habitat for fish. The reef will consist of 64 cement Reef Balls, arrayed in four clusters on the Bay floor, roughly 100 feet from a public fishing pier at the park.

The new artificial reef will be the first of its kind in Rhode Island waters. By adding complex structure to the Bay floor, the reef system will create habitat for juvenile and adult sport fish, and improve recreational fishing at Sabin Point. Target species include tautog, black sea bass and scup. It will also advance research on the impact of artificial reefs in Rhode Island and may serve as a model for future reef projects in upper Narragansett Bay.

Construction Schedule

October 23: Specialty Diving will load the Reef Balls onto a barge at their bulkhead at Quonset Business Park. October 24: Reef Balls will be transported via barge from Quonset to Sabin Point in the morning. Reef construction will begin in the afternoon. A crane will lift 8 Reef Balls at a time and place them on the Bay floor. October 25: Specialty Diving will complete reef construction in the morning and return the empty barge to Quonset in the afternoon.

The project is co-led by scientists at The Nature Conservancy and the DEM Division of Marine Fisheries. It is funded largely through the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program, administered by DEM, with additional funds raised by The Nature Conservancy, including a grant from the RI Saltwater Anglers Association. Total construction cost is $47,000.

Media Availability

On Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, media are invited to observe the deployment of Reef Balls from Sabin Point Park or from the deck of Specialty Diving’s barge. Anyone on the barge will be required to wear a hardhat, life jacket, safety glasses (to be provided by TNC/DEM) and work boots. To make arrangements to board the barge, please call Tim Mooney at The Nature Conservancy at 401-529-1072.