OCEAN CITY — The ever-growing artificial reef system off the coast of Ocean City got its newest addition last Friday when a 60-foot barge was sunk on an established reef site about 10 miles offshore.
The Ocean City Reef Foundation (OCRF), with the help of support vessels, towed the 60-foot barge offshore to the Bass Grounds about 10 miles where it was systematically sunk over the Bob Gowar artificial reef site. After a few minutes, the end of the barge tipped toward the sky and it went straight down over the predetermined site.
The barge sinking was the latest addition to the growing artificial reef network off the Ocean City coast and came during a time when the OCRF has been particularly active. OCRF president Captain Monty Hawkins said last Friday’s contribution to the Bass Grounds site was the latest of many yet to come.
“We have two more barges in the pipeline for this year, plus one of our largest reef projects ever, the Bass Grounds restoration boulder reef,” he said. “The next barge we sink will be what I anticipate will become one of our finest — Jack Kaeufer’s Memorial Reef. His memory demands it.”
The OCRF typically names individual reef sites after individuals who have made a significant contribution to the fishing community and the foundation over the years, including the Gowar site. Kaeufer was a charter captain and fixture in the Ocean City fishing community who passed away in May.
The OCRF has been trying to re-establish an artificial reef on the historic Bass Grounds for years and last week’s contribution of a 60-foot barge on the Gowar site will certainly help. However, Hawkins and the OCRF have even bigger plans for the Bass Grounds reef about eight miles offshore.
Throughout the winter, the OCRF worked closely with The Nature Conservancy and US Wind, the company planning a vast wind energy farm off the resort coast, on a partnership to develop an artificial reef project on the Bass Grounds, which encompasses about four miles. When the project is completed, about 5,000 tons of boulder is expected to be deposited on the Bass Grounds site.