Prestressed poles, repurposed as artificial reefs, prove conducive to marine species

Source: Florida Power & Light Co., Juno Beach, Fla.

Florida Power & Light’s artificial reef program, utilizing discarded concrete transmission poles to enhance South Florida’s marine environment, received the Industry Excellence Award, Environmental category, in an annual Southeastern Electric Exchange program.

Over a three-year period, the utility initiated a recycling program repurposing 183 prestressed poles—approximately 3,000 tons of concrete—for projects off the coast of St. Lucie County. The artificial reefs provide habitat to 110-plus marine life species, the abundance and variety of which have drawn divers and anglers.

“FPL’s generous gift has become a popular fishing and diving site for residents and vacationers alike,” says St. Lucie County Marine Resource Coordinator James Oppenborn. “These reefs have also created a direct economic opportunity for area businesses to shuttle visitors to and from the reefs’ locations.”

“There were four main considerations to weigh when we embarked on this program. We had to beneficially reuse poles, reduce waste sent to Florida landfills, limit the amount of required construction management, and manage costs,” observes FPL Distribution Environmental Manager Loretta Cranmer. “This is a perfect way to demonstrate to customers and industry peers that there are sustainable opportunities to leverage when it comes to reducing waste while at the same time making a positive contribution to the local economy.

“We have to look at opportunities that are practical from a construction management perspective, beneficially reuse poles, and avoid negative impacts to project costs. Artificial reef programs meet all the criteria.”

The utility is expanding artificial reef program donations in other counties, she adds, incorporating an environmental “recyclable” assessment process on any project that involves transmission infrastructure. For coastal county projects that include removal of 30 or more used concrete poles, the environmental assessment now includes an added scope referencing the option of donating structures to local artificial reef programs.