In June 2007, Broward County, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and the U.S. military embarked on a monumental project to remove tires from an artificial reef site off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. Nearly two million tires had been placed offshore during the 1970s in a failed effort to establish an artificial reef. Tires in the project site are estimated to cover more than 36 acres. Over the course of 3 yrs, divers removed more than 70,000 tires (equivalent to 63 tractor-trailer loads).
This coral reef restoration project was unique in several ways. Each 2-man team of United States Army and Navy divers strung tires onto wire ropes which was then buoyed to the surface using 2-ton lift bags. The lift bags and tire bundles were then towed to a 175 foot Army ship termed a landing craft utility (LCU) where a crane was used to lift the bundles into open-top trailers on board the ship. Military personnel then removed the hardware and passed it out of the trailer to be used by other dive teams. Full trailers were regularly offloaded at Port Everglades and the FDEP managed recycling of the waste tires.
The Broward County Environmental Planning and Community Resilience Division was the local partner providing project coordination and oversight. Port Everglades provided dockage and vessel support during the entire mission and the Parks and Recreation Division provided logistical support for the military equipment. While Broward County benefited from the military's efforts with a cleaner environment, the tire removal project also served as military training exercise through the Innovative Readiness Training Program.
In 2015, a marine contractor, under agreement with FDEP, began a commercial operation to remove more tires from the artificial reef. Although a much smaller operation in terms of scale, funding from the State, Broward County, and a grant from NOAA's Marine Debris Program, it is estimated that 100,000 tires will be removed over the course of a 2-year period. As with the previous projects involving the military, recovered tires are recycled as fuel in energy plants. This current project has the tires being transported to Polk County, FL to the Wheelabrator Ridge Energy Plant.