The Acosta Bridge Artificial Reef took an enormous amount of energy and hard work.
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JRRTThere were years of planning by people behind the scenes that made the Acosta artificial reef a reality. The JOSFC started working with the architects and engineers at the design stage of the new Acosta bridge to get offshore Jacksonville listed as an alternate disposal site for the old bridge. The JOSFC coordinated all efforts, including monitoring the placements, and was responsible for maintenance of the reef.

The placement on June 23, 1992 was the first of between six and twelve loads of material that were transported offshore between June and November, 1992.

Many volunteer organizations and government agencies worked together, sifting through miles of paperwork and red tape. It was through the cooperative efforts of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Corps of Engineers, City of Jacksonville, the contractor receiving the grant - Reechi America for agreeing to recycle the bridge rubble, the Jacksonville Reef Research Team (RRT) and the Jacksonville Offshore Sport Fishing Club (JOSFC) that made this placement possible.

Two separate companies won the bids to build the bridge: one for the main span, Reechi America, and the other for the cloverleaves and approaches.  The JOSFC worked with both companies trying to persuade them to use offshore for disposal of the bridge rubble. It was found that on land-based approaches, it was more feasible to recycle the concrete. But since the main span was over water, offshore became an alternative disposal method. The JOSFC originally vied for both the steel and concrete, but the steel had a large salvage value and was recycled.

The contract required the main span builder to remove all fallen pieces from the river bottom as the old Acosta bridge was demolished. The Corps of Engineers was concerned about scouring of the river bottom by the currents against the fallen pieces. Each of the old concrete piers stood upward of 100 feet tall, mostly underwater. Removal was done by drilling a long hole from the top to bottom and inserting dynamite in the hole, blowing the columns into pieces and then picking them up from the river bottom. Since all pieces had to be removed from the river bottom, it was just as easy to to just place them on a barge.

JRRTIn 1992, when the JOSFC contacted Kevin Davy, vice president and project manager of Reechi America, there was still a slight cost advantage to the company to send the concrete to recyclers on the mainland. The difference was around $20,000, more than the cost to take it offshore. Tony Harron, from the City of Jacksonville Parks & Recreation Department and Virginia Vail, from DNR searched their then current fiscal year budget and found money that was not allocated.

In quick order, the Department of Natural Resources designated $20,000 to the City of Jacksonville to help in the placement of the artificial reef. The grant was awarded quickly to the City of Jacksonville and the job then became one of drawing up the contract between the City of Jacksonville and Reechi America, and having a new site permitted. The site, with cooperation of the Corps of Engineers, was quickly permitted to the City. The City then obtained a permit for the general site and a secondary permit for an anchor buoy.

Unlike previous drops, this placement had a buoy onsite anchored by a " galvanized aircraft cable attached at the top by a large anchor buoy and the bottom to an old piece of bridge pier, anchoring the barge to the buoy for offloading of material.  "Because of the various drifts of the ocean and winds, it was anticipated that as the barge loads swung on the anchor buoy, a crescent shaped reef would be built as the bridge rubble was pushed off the barge. The site was selected because of its 72 foot depth and because it is on a direct line between the Busey's Bonanza (RB) flag, and the Nine Mile (NM) flag.  Deploying the Acosta Bridge rubble here would contribute growing the two reefs together and create a trolling alley," stated Royal VanHorn, JOSFC.

The Jacksonville Reef Research Team (RRT) donated their time to complete numerous bottom surveys, assisted in the deployment of the reef, verifying reef placements, and created a full report of the deployment for the The City or Jacksonville and DNR. The Jacksonville Reef Research Team also wanted to make sure that the placement met the guidelines set forth by the City of Jacksonville and DNR.

According to Mark Ullmann, Reef Research Team Coordinator in 1992, "This was one of the most important projects to the community, and the cooperative efforts of all parties would ensure a strong and productive artificial reef." The Jacksonville Reef Research Team continues to perform ongoing underwater monitoring, verifying the condition of the reef, collecting data and reporting on its condition.

Monitoring the progress of this new artificial reef was considered critical by the RRT for several reasons. If the drift was on the same compass heading, after several placements, it would be possible to build the reef too tall, there was only l8 to 20 feet to work with. Second, if the reef  became too spread out in an arch, the buoy would have needed to be repositioned. Third, if the first two or three barge loads resulted in a large, compact reef, additional deployments would have been moved down the line toward the Nine mile area."

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