‘Spent’ prestressed poles live on to anglers and marine species’ delight

16 FPLii 400An artificial reef program utilizing discarded concrete transmission poles to enhance south Florida’s marine environment garnered Florida Power & Light Co. the Industry Excellence Award, Environmental category, in an annual Southeastern Electric Exchange program. Over a three-year period, FPL initiated a recycling program repurposing 183 prestressed poles—approximately 3,000 tons of concrete—for projects off the coast of St. Lucie County. The reefs provide habitat to 110-plus marine life species, whose abundance and variety attract 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 created a direct economic opportunity for area businesses to shuttle visitors to and from the reefs’ locations.”

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Florida Power & Light was recognized this year for a decade-long project to develop four sites within the St. Lucie and Martin counties’ artificial reef program. Here, reef contractor McCulley Marine Services dispatches a 500-ton load of donated materials and structures.

“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.”

FPL is expanding artificial reef program donations into other counties, Cranmer 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.