In June 2007, Broward County and the U.S. military embarked on a monumental project to remove tires from the Osborne Coral Reef off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. Nearly two million tires had been placed in the reef during the 1970s in a failed effort to establish an artificial reef. Today these tires are estimated to cover more than 36 acres. This year, divers hope to remove more than 45,000 tires over a six-week period (equivalent to 30 tractor-trailer loads), to reach a three-year total of nearly 100,000.
This coral reef restoration project is unique in several ways. Divers provided by the United States Army and Navy will gather and bundle the tires which are then buoyed to the surface. While the divers work to clean up the environment, the tire retrieval project also serves as military training exercise. The Army is also providing a 175-foot ship termed a landing craft utility (LCU) which accommodates a crane used to transfer the tire bundles from the water's surface to on-board tractor-trailer units. Full trailers are regularly off-loaded at Port Everglades and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection manages the recycling of the waste tires.
The Broward County Natural Resources Planning and Management Division is the local partner providing project coordination and oversight. Port Everglades provides dockage and vessel support during the entire mission and the Parks and Recreation Division provides logistical.
Wheelabrator Ridge Energy Inc., through a contract with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Waste Management, will dispose of the tires primarily in their Auburndale, FL. power plant to generate clean renewable energy to the local utility. Additionally, tires may be disposed of at the Wheelabrator South Broward Plant located off S.R. 441.