Pieces of the old Buddy Phillips bridge in Jacksonville are now being used to build an artificial reef.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is currently replacing the 69-year-old bridge , which carries U.S. 17 over the New River, with a new, more modern bridge .
As part of the project, the NCDOT demolished the old bridge and donated nearly 8,000 tons of rubble, concrete and metal to build a new artificial reef in the New River near Jacksonville.
The 31-acre reef is 300 yards long and 500 yards wide. It is located southeast of Town Point - about four miles south of the old bridge.
"Building the reef was really a win-win for all the partners involved," said Jim Francesconi, artificial reef coordinator for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, who oversaw the reef design and deployments for this project.
The lead partner was Sturgeon City, with the effort coordinated by former Executive Director JP McCann. He worked with Francesconi, NCDOT and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to turn the reef from an idea into a reality. NCDOT hauled the concrete and metal from the site of the old bridge to the Sturgeon City facility. There, a contractor broke it down into smaller pieces about the size of baseballs and basketballs. Once separated from the steel and smallest material, the larger stone was washed and delivered to a landing area aboard Camp Lejeune, loaded onto a barge and carried to the reef site where mounds of stone were strategically positioned in the New River to form the reef.
The $563,000 reef construction project was paid for with an N.C. Coastal Recreational Fishing License Grant to Sturgeon City, as well as Sport Fish Restoration funding. The N.C. Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses Grant Program receives revenue from the sale of coastal fishing licenses in North Carolina. Sport Fish Restoration funding is derived from the sale of fishing tackle and marina fuels. No state appropriated funding was used.
The aquatic life around the reef is thriving, and Francesconi expects a whole new habitat to form there for finfish.