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Coastal Daybreak Radio, 3/23/20, WTKF 107.1, FM 1240 AM, Host Mike McHugh, guest Jordan Byrum

Dr. Bogus: We have Jordan Byrum who is the coordinator of the NCDMF Artificial Reef Program, good morning Jordan. We’ve had Jordan on before and a number of people from including the late Jim Francesconi many of times talking about the Artificial Reef Program. The AR program here in NC Jordan, as far as I can tell one of the most active ones along the Atlantic coast.

Jordan Byrum:  It is, we’ve got a lot of reefs, we’ve got 68 here in NC and 43 of those are offshore. Compare that to a lot of the other states up and down the eastern coast; we’re pretty high up there.

Dr. Bogus: It really is a very progressive program, and one of the reasons why I wanted to have you here today is that there continues to be, two things, the creation of new reefs and adding structure to reefs we have out there. The other thing of course is anyone who fishes out there doesn’t have a copy of the current Artificial Reef Guide…you still have copies in the office?

Jordan Byrum:  Oh yes, we’ve got a few thousand of them sitting around.

Dr. Bogus: Okay, people just have to stop by and pick them up. I remember the old version…it looked like it was done out of newsprint and stapled together about 25 or 30-years ago. This one is a really nice one, it has great pictures of everything and the structure and of course the on-line reef guide is really interactive and really good Jordan.

Jordan Byrum:  Yes, that’s where we are really putting our newest enhancements. We’re able to update that much more quickly than we are our print version. We are able, as soon as we sink something we can get a side scan, a multi-beam image of it, we can put that on our web site. You can scroll around; it works basically like Google Earth/Google Maps. You can see where the material is, you can see a side-scan image of it.

Dr. Bogus: There’s a tutorial there to get people up and running, although even without that it’s pretty intuitive to use. I’ve gone there a number of times, you can measure distances and get the GPS coordinates and the relief of the junk that’s down on the bottom. Of course we don’t use junk anymore.

Jordan Byrum:  No we don’t!

Dr. Bogus: We’ve gotten more sophisticated than the junk. And also there is part of the program is your estuarine reefs as well, some of which are oyster reefs and some are fishing reefs.

Jordan Byrum:  Yes and I would like to just make a point that ALL of these are fishing reefs. Some have a dual purpose to serve for oyster restoration purposes in Pamlico Sound. So we have mentioned before the Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary. That’s one of our newest reefs. It’s located at the mouth of the Neuse River right off the Point of Marsh. So folks who fish for the big red drum in the fall, the old drum, are probably familiar with that area. We’ve got a project planned for that later this spring, early summer, going to add another 10,000-ton of limestone rock there. This site is about 60-acres in size so it’s enormous!

Dr. Bogus: Substantial!

Jordan Byrum:  It’s very-very large and it’s got 80,000-tons of rock on it, both limestone and granite.

Dr. Bogus: Both of which are great…concrete is a good material but I guess limestone and granite are good for reef material and for attracting oysters.

Jordan Byrum:  Yes, they grow a lot of oysters, all this new material in the water is growing oysters like crazy. And we’ve also documented some really good fishing out there. I know last summer there was a great speckled trout bite in June and July. There’s red drum that are caught there, we see sheepshead and black drum when we dive it, it’s just covered with life.

Dr. Bogus: How deep is that reef?

Jordan Byrum:  On the deep side it’s about 14-feet, and up on the shallow side about 10-feet.

Dr. Bogus: What is your favorite reef to fish?

Jordan Byrum:  Oh man, I would probably say just AR 315 because it’s so easy to get to, right outside the inlet. I’ve caught a ton of fish over the years even before I even started working here.

Dr. Bogus: One of the reasons why I had you on here today is a number of articles that appeared in the newspapers recently about some of the additions, one of which is actually a new reef, AR 165. The NC reef structure is heavily weighted the central and south regions of the coast, because that’s where the inlets are. So as you go north, particularly from Oregon Inlet north there isn’t much there.

Jordan Byrum:  There’s not and some of that is because Hatteras and Oregon Inlets historically have been tough to navigate. Probably an understatement of the century! So a lot of those projects either have to have a very-very long transit out of Beaufort Inlet or come down out of Norfolk.

Dr. Bogus: One of the new ones is in that general area AR 165. Why don’t you…you recently placed a tug there, and where is that located?

Jordan Byrum:  So AR 165, it’s about 6 or 7-miles south of Oregon Inlet, but only a couple of miles off the beach though. It’s currently got one tug boat there, we’ve got another tug boat that is prepped and ready to sink. We’ve got a barge that’s loaded with 4,000-tons of concrete pipe that is prepped and ready and ready to sink. We just need the wind to stop blowing and we’ll go up there and sink it.

Dr. Bogus: Good luck with that! We’re at the beach!

Jordan Byrum:  Bad time of year but it will lay out eventually.

Dr. Bogus: What’s the depth if that Jordan?

Jordan Byrum:  It’s about 68-feet at the site.

Dr. Bogus: What is the relief above the top of the boat?

Jordan Byrum:  It’s about 35 to 38-feet tall. They cut down the wheelhouse just enough so we could meet the Coast Guard vertical clearance requirements.

Dr. Bogus: One of the things when you do something like that is the cleaning of a boat like that or any of the boats that are sunk. Concrete is pretty clean and granite and limestone are clean but boats ain’t.

Jordan Byrum:  There is a very thorough document published by the EPA that we follow, our contractors follow for vessel cleaning. Basically it’s removing any of the trash, any of the things that could float anything that’s got any type of contaminants. They’ll actually go and pressure-wash the inside of the engine room. You take the heads off the engines if the engines are going to stay in there and clean all the oil and grease and everything out.

Dr. Bogus: That’s only one of the projects that you’ve been working on lately, and that’s a new reef. Now the other thing that is done frequently good stuff to existing reefs, a pair of them are out of Ocracoke Inlet AR 250 and AR 255, what are the plans for those reefs?

Jordan Byrum:  We have about 600 very large reef balls. Reef balls are concrete domed structures that have holes all in them, so we’ve got about 600 of those, that are 6-feet tall, a bunch of old concrete rubble, old concrete buoy anchors concrete pipe that will be going on to those reef sites probably early summer is the time frame on that. We’ve got another project that’s going to be paired with that and that’s AR 368 and it’s going to receive some more of those concrete reef balls as well as some concrete pipe. In that project, we’re actually going to sink a vessel. The vessel is the Bryan Davis and is sitting at…it’s actually a retired Coast Guard buoy tender the sister ship to the Spar if anyone’s familiar with that. That vessel is actually dedicated to Brian Davis, we’ve been working with his family, he was a diver who died a few years ago in a diving accident. Check out this link to the Brian Davis Artificial Reef Memorial:

Dr. Bogus: The work you are doing at AR 250/255, where is that located and how deep is that?

Jordan Byrum:  It’s about 75 to 80-feet, it’s pretty deep, it’s the benefit of being in Raleigh Bay, the water drops off pretty quick as you get off the beach there.

Dr. Bogus: Not like Onslow Bay.

Jordan Byrum:  No not at all.

Dr. Bogus: How long does it take…and do you document the infestation with life and fish and do you keep track on how the fishing goes on those reefs.

Jordan Byrum:  Yes, we do. We do a handful of dives every year just doing dive assessments to see what’s there how the material is holding up, if it’s moved if it’s got sediment moving around it. But with 68 reefs we really can’t get to everyone every year, so I welcome any type of fishing report any information that anybody in the public can give us. When I go to talk to fishing clubs, there is just a wealth of knowledge. “Oh I was over at somewhere and we caught a bunch of black sea bass that day.” That’s really good information for us to know that these reefs are functioning as they are supposed to.

Dr. Bogus: It’s been my impression that is doesn’t take very long for these reefs to become inhabited by things that grow on the reefs and attracting fish.

Jordan Byrum:  It really doesn’t I know with some of the boats that we’ve sunk, for instance, the Fort Fisher that we sunk at AR 320, now that’s an existing reef site that had a lot of material. I dove it about 30-minutes after it hit the bottom and there were already bait fish, we saw a little barracuda, saw little groupers, saw a small shark along the side of the boat 30-minutes after it hit the bottom.

Dr. Bogus: Most of these reefs, some are a bit offshore but most are really designed to be accessible to the casual boater.

Jordan Byrum:  We’ve got a lot that are within just a few miles of the inlets and those are typically our most popular reefs. So around here, Beaufort Inlet, AR 315 receives a lot of traffic, a lot of fishing, a lot of folks fishing there and it’s still a great place to fish. The reef is huge, there is material scattered all over the place.

Mike McHugh: Jordan, you mentioned that when you speak to fishing clubs people give you information, intel that you can’t get because there are so many ARs out there. Is there a source or place that fishermen and divers can give you information and feedback outside of these fishing clubs?

Jordan Byrum:  Yes, it’s actually listed on our web site and it’s basically my e-mail address. We have a little reef survey there or folks can pick up the phone and call me, my phone number (252.808.8036) is on the website or shoot me an e-mail (

Dr. Bogus: One of the things that people have been interested in is the bridge formerly known as Bonner! It’s being discombobulated and proliferating reefs outside of the Oregon Inlet. What’s the status of that, sounds like it’s been a bit of a hassle.

Jordan Byrum:  Yah it’s a very-very large project as you can imagine. We’re expecting about 80,000 tons of concrete rubble in total, and that’s going to 4-reefs, 4-existing reefs that are up off of Oregon inlet. Historically, even last year, they would just go and load up a barge carry it out with a tug boat off load it, in and out of Oregon Inlet…no problem. The inlet’s shoaled up over the fall and winter so now the contractors actually been carrying it all the way up the Intracoastal Waterway out of Chesapeake Bay and back down to North Carolina.

Dr. Bogus: How long a drive is that?

Jordan Byrum:  That’s a very long ride, I don’t exactly know. We’ve been able to tract these deployments with AIS, the Automated Information System, so I get an alert on my phone…like oh tugboat Challenger is inside AR 160. And so we don’t actually have to be up there for all those deployments.

Dr. Bogus: What are the reefs that are being stocked from the Bonner Bridge?

Jordan Byrum:  So that’s AR 130, 140, 145 and 160 are each receiving material from the Bonner Bridge. 

Dr. Bogus: What is the structure of the materials coming off the bridge? Big chunks? Little chunks?

Jordan Byrum:  Depending on where they are cutting it from, we are getting entire road spans. Basically you take an entire bridge span and split it right down the yellow line. They’ll have that entire section sitting on a barge. There’s pilings, there’s the big bridge girders that are underneath that. They will actually just lay those on a set or rails running the short way across the barge and they’ve got a pair of hydraulic rams with like a 9-foot stroke on them, fire the generator up and start shoving stuff off when they are inside the deployment area.

Mike McHugh: When you have the debris on the barge Jordan, is there a science on how you dump it? Or is it just however it comes off that’s where it lands on the bottom?

Jordan Byrum:  Most of the stuff in the ocean (reefs) basically just gets dumped. Inshore work is a little bit different because we are trying to hit a more precise location, but offshore you can’t really lower something to 75-feet, not safely. So most of the time stuff is just offloaded with rails or a loader or excavator.

Mike McHugh: Do you capture some of those images on video?

Jordan Byrum:  We do, we’ve got a few of those floating around, I use them in all my fishing club talks.

Dr. Bogus: The AR 398, that’s in the New River is actually laid out in a grid pattern.

Jordan Byrum:  It is, as you can tell that was very deliberate. So those are big piles of concrete rubble from the old bridge there in Jacksonville.

Mike McHugh: The Buddy Phillip’s Bridge.

Jordan Byrum:  That was built…you had a coordinate and they off loaded with a loader, the material there and then okay, we have 20-scoups or whatever it was for this tonnage and then okay lets go to the next point.

Dr. Bogus: We hope to have further updates to North Carolina’s Artificial Reef Program as it continues to develop. 

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