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Georgias waters get a taste of the Big Apple
44 subway cars to become states latest artificial reef
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Down the hatch — a crane lifts old New York City subway cars off a barge before dropping them into the ocean waters off the Georgia coast. - photo by Photo provided

BRUNSWICK — A barge load of retired New York City Transit subway cars is the latest addition to one of Georgia’s oldest artificial reefs, “HLHA,” located 23 miles east of Little Cumberland Island.

The 44 subway cars transported by barge from New York City were deployed earlier this month under the watchful eye of Coastal Resources Division staff and a crew on assignment from NBC’s, The Today Show. Georgia fishing license funds and federal aid in sport fish restoration paid for the purchase and deployment of the subway cars.

“This is the second time we’ve deployed subways cars on Georgia’s offshore artificial reefs,” said Tony Blount, marine technician responsible for coordinating the subway car project. “In 2005, we put subway cars retired from almost 70 years of service at reefs CCA-JL and L reefs off the northern end of the coast.

“Thanks to the partnership with New York City Transit and Assistant Chief Operations Officer Michael Zacchea we were able to purchase another load of larger cars, and we have plans to for get two more barge loads of subway cars in 2009.”

HLHA Reef, formerly known as G Reef, is one of the original artificial reefs developed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) during the early 1970s. Over the past three decades, the site has been the destination for numerous materials including 11 vessels and several surplus Army tanks. The subway cars, each measuring 55-ft in length and weighing 11,000 pounds, had been in service with New York City Transit since the 1960s. Each car was thoroughly cleaned and inspected before being loaded on a barge for the five-day trip to coastal Georgia.

CRD staff aboard the Research Vessel Marguerite rendezvoused with the barge at the reef site to ensure the subway cars were deployed in an area on the northwest side of the reef site where there was no natural live bottom or existing manmade material.

The sight of subway cars into the calm blue waters provided a unique backdrop as the NBC reporter interviewed Michael Zacchea and Spud Woodward, CRD assistant director for marine fisheries as part of an upcoming story on oceans.

Anglers and divers can find the subway cars by going to 30o58.865N/80o58.601W and proceeding on a heading of 333 degrees. The cars are scattered in a line over a distance of approximately one half mile. Next spring and summer, this area should be a good trolling alley for king mackerel, barracuda, and other pelagic game fish.  

Man-made materials such as subway cars provide a hard substrate, which attracts a diverse assemblage of encrusting organisms like corals and sponges. These organisms combine with the submerged material creating habitat that attracts bait and game fish such as black sea bass, amberjack, and grouper. Each year, thousands of anglers and divers visit the 22 artificial reefs found offshore Georgia.  Although spring and summer are the busiest times for artificial reef visitation, these areas are populated by sea life throughout the year.

For more information on CRD’s artificial reef program contact Woodward at (912) 264-7218 or email: