The waters of the northern Gulf Coast are renowned among anglers for bountiful catches, one of the reasons the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo is the largest fishing tournament in the world.

One of the key components is the vast artificial reef zone that has been building since the 1950s. According to a news release from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the latest contribution took place last month about 25 miles south of the Sand Island Lighthouse at a depth of approximately 120 feet.

Alabama Power provided two boilers that had been removed from service at plants in Mobile and Washington counties. Cooper/T. Smith Corp. provided the barge that carried the boilers to the site. Helping to pull all of this together was the Alabama Wildlife Federation and the Alabama Marine Resources Division.

“One thing I’m so excited about with this Alabama Power reef project is that it just shows that the more we’re involved with the community, community leaders and business leaders, there are a lot of great things we can do as partners,” Marine resources director Chris Blankenship said. “Tim Gothard with the Alabama Wildlife Federation and Matt Bowden with Alabama Power are the ones who reached out to us with this idea. Then it grew with the work with Angus Cooper and Cooper/T. Smith. They had a barge that had neared the end of its useful life, and we needed a barge to transport the material to the deployment site.”

(Photo | Courtesy of Alabama Power)  A 195-foot barge loaded with two 100-ton boilers became the latest artificial reef to be deployed off the Alabama Gulf Coast last month, about 25 miles offshore.

(Photo | Courtesy of Alabama Power) A 195-foot barge loaded with two 100-ton boilers became the latest artificial reef to be deployed off the Alabama Gulf Coast last month, about 25 miles offshore.


Blankenship continued: “I think there are a lot of opportunities out there to get companies to rethink the ways they’ve always dealt with materials that have reached the end of their service life. The more we get involved with these organizations and companies, the more we can show them there are other opportunities to partner together. It’s good for the companies and good for the marine habitat. That’s why we think it’s important to get the word out about this project, because it can show what we can do with other private companies. I also hope this is a long relationship with Alabama Power as they continue to provide service for their ratepayers and, at the same time, enhance the environment.”

According to the DCNR website (outdooralabama.com/artificial-reef-history), Alabama has the largest artificial reef system in the United States. It began with 250 car bodies being placed in the Gulf waters in 1953.

In the latest deposit, the boilers are about 18 feet tall, 40 feet long and weigh about 100 tons each. The barge is 195 feet long. The Alabama Power reef was deployed near the 70-foot Offshore Supply Boat Reef to provide additional habitat for species that anglers can target outside of the short red snapper season.

“A reef this size would take at least a dozen of our super pyramids,” Craig Newton, MRD artificial reefs coordinator, said about smaller contributions. “So this reef is a big cost savings for our artificial reef program. Alabama Power is experiencing cost savings as well because they don’t have to hire skilled personnel to disassemble the boilers and salvage them.”

Newton expects red snapper to inhabit the reefs within days, with mangrove (gray) snapper to soon follow. By the time the next fishing season opens on New Year’s Day, he said, anglers could find amberjack at the end of their hook as well as vermilion snapper and triggerfish.

“The more diversified we can make the reef program, the more ecologically sound and more stable the reef system will be,” Newton said. “The size of this reef will make it better suited to handle storm events and other stresses that might happen.”

YMCA to host fundraiser
The YMCA of South Alabama will sponsor its second annual Gridiron Gala on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the Battle House Renaissance Hotel in downtown Mobile. Proceeds will benefit the Campaign for Youth, Seniors and Families, which supports early learning, child care and mentorship for families across the Gulf Coast.

The guest speaker will be NFL consultant Dr. Kevin Elko. A West Virginia University Hall of Fame inductee, Dr. Elko will deliver his address titled “Connection: I see you as a person.” He will discuss the importance of building personal relationships and connecting with others.

Sportscaster Eli Gold and Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage will serve as the masters of ceremonies. The gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Moonlight Ballroom. Prior to dinner, a VIP reception will take place in the Oakleigh Garden Room. There will also be a silent auction of sports memorabilia.

For sponsorship and event information, or to register, please visit www.ysal.org.

Hicks accepts conference position
The University of Mobile has produced an impressive athletic department since the school opened its doors. Helping to get the message out has been Matthew Hicks, the Rams’ sports information director since 2006.

For the last two academic years, he has been voted Sports Information Director of the Year by his peers in the Southern States Athletic Conference. The league officials noticed, and made him an offer he could not refuse. As of Oct. 6, he is now the assistant commissioner of the SSAC.

“The chance to continue to work in the best conference in the NAIA and promote all of our student-athletes was too good to pass up,” Hicks said. “I’ve already developed relationships with a lot of the people I’ll be working with, and I look forward to making new relationships as I seek to build upon the success that others have already created. I already have ideas running through my mind on ways to get the stories of our institutions and student-athletes out there.”

Hicks is the only NAIA sports information director to earn 2016 NAIA-SIDA awards for publications, infographics, social media and video. He oversaw game day operations and staffing, website maintenance, social media, photography, media relations, video content, statistics, media guides, news releases and more for the 18 varsity sports.

UM’s loss is certainly a gain for the SSAC. His presence will certainly be missed.