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New site to join state’s Rigs to Reefs program

The spar section of a decommissioned oil rig will soon become part of the state’s artificial reef system thanks to an agreement between the structure’s owner, Noble Energy and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

This new reef site is about 60 nautical miles off Alabama’s coast. It is being made available through the state’s Rigs to Reefs program, which allows the Conservation Department to repurpose decommissioned oil and gas rigs as artificial reefs to support marine life, including many species targeted by anglers. In addition to donating the decommissioned rigs, the oil and gas companies are also required to make a donation to the Alabama Seafoods Fund to be used in research, monitoring, habitat restoration and management of Alabama’s marine resources.

“The Rigs to Reefs program allows us to keep these structures in the water to continue serving as productive habitat instead of being recycled onshore,” said Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship. “These structures are often called ‘islands of life’ because they support everything from coral to pelagic fish and sea turtles.

“We are excited to make this new reef site available to anglers in the coming weeks.”

The rig’s platform was removed July 24 and the massive spar (705 feet by 72 feet) will be towed from its current location and sunk at a depth of 700 feet, about 55 nautical miles south of Mobile Bay. Anglers can expect to have access to the new reef site late this month or early September.

“Anglers will be able to visit the site when we publish the coordinates a few weeks from now,” said Craig Newton, Artificial Reef Coordinator for the department’s Marine Resources Division. “Before publishing the coordinates, we need to review the completion report from the contractors and confirm the resting location of the spar. This typically takes a few weeks from the time the structure hits the bottom.”

Known along Alabama’s Gulf Coast as the “Beer Can Rig,” the structure has provided important marine habitat for many species since going into service in the late-1990s. The durability of the spar structure will continue to support a stable offshore ecosystem and provide generations of anglers with access to quality outdoor recreation.

For information about Alabama’s Artificial Reef Program, click here.

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