Broward County has received a Presidential Award for an environmental project that I feel really demonstrates government at its very best. Recently, on behalf of the Broward County Commission, I accepted the Coastal America Presidential Partnership Award for our participation in the Osborne Reef Tire Removal Project that began three years ago and continues today. It's the only environmental award recognized by the White House.
In the 1970's approximately two million tires were placed in the ocean, about three miles off the Broward County coast. It was believed the tires would create an artificial reef and would enhance fish populations and expand diving opportunities.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but over the years the bundled tires became displaced after decades of weathering currents, storms and hurricanes. They began to destroy the natural Coral Reefs and became an environmental hazard. The price tag to remove the tires was estimated at $40–million–much too expensive a project to undertake. We had to find another way to get the job done. In 2006, a group of Federal, State and local agencies joined forces to determine how the tires, which cover an estimated 34 acres could be removed in an affordable and efficient manner.
A unique partnership was formed that included the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Port Everglades and Broward County's Natural Resources Planning and Management.
The military provided salvage divers as part of the U.S. Department of Defense's Innovative Readiness Training Program. In fact, many of the salvage divers trained in this project are now serving in the Middle East.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection had the ability to transport and recycle the tires, eventually turning them into small pellets that were converted into fuel to power a paper manufacturing plant. Broward County managed the project and Port Everglades provided dockage. The final cost: $2–million dollars which the Governor authorized to cover the costs of transporting and recycling the tires.
A letter from President Barack Obama accompanied the award and he noted. “You are achieving what few thought possible... recovering thousands of tires from the bottom of the Ocean... at very little cost to the public and then transforming those recovered tires into energy to the benefit of south Florida communities.”
Given the economic realities that we live in today, there is lesson to be learned here. Government obviously works better when we work together. I hope that this project serves as a model for others to follow—not just to remove tires–but a model for how all of governments should strive to serve the people.
I'm always open to your ideas, opinions and suggestions. Please contact my office at (954) 357-7006 or send me an e-mail.