Miami-Dade County’s collection of artificial reefs includes sunken ships, Army tanks, pieces of a passenger jet, radio towers and a cemetery modeled after the mythical Lost City of Atlantis. In the next year or so, Stonehenge may be added.
A scale replica of England’s mystical stone monument is slated to be deployed in waters 40 to 60 feet deep about three miles off Key Biscayne in a special management zone that already harbors several other artificial reefs. Built of carved limestone from a Homestead quarry and reinforced with fiberglass composite rods, the concentric stone circles are expected to be a haven for marine creatures and scuba divers.
“Stonehenge will be the largest artistically-inspired, manmade reef ever created,” declared project mastermind Gary Levine of Hollywood, president of Reefbuilders International. “It will be beneficial to the ocean and to divers.”
Levine says Stonehenge, taking up about a half-acre of the ocean floor, will be larger than the neighboring Neptune Reef, the Atlantis-like graveyard Levine created in 2007 that was taken over by the Neptune Society, a cremation services company. Levine says Stonehenge will have more than 15,000 cubic feet of stone weighing 1.2 million pounds. The tallest of the stone structures will rise 24 feet from the bottom, he said.
“We’re going to build it in its completed form — not in its current form where half of it is missing,” he said.
Levine and his Reefbuilders colleagues have recently begun carving limestone blocks into Stonehenge configurations. They plan to transport the structures in 200-ton barge loads out to the deployment site, with the first phase placed in early spring 2013. Levine said the columns will be oriented just like the real things standing in the English countryside — lining up with the summer and winter solstices.
The original Stonehenge was constructed by unknown architects beginning about 5,000 years ago and believed to be a burial ground and celestial observatory.
The new artificial reef has the tentative blessing of Miami-Dade’s Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources/Environmental Resources Management section, according to Steve Blair, chief of the restoration and enhancement section.
“As far as we’re looking at it, the materials are appropriate. It can be enhanced to increase habitat benefits from it,” Blair said.
Blair said he would like to see smaller enclosed spaces added to the collection of stone columns to create hiding places for smaller creatures such as lobsters and reef fish. Once that issue is resolved and a specific site selected, the county will look at final approval.
Meanwhile, Levine — an entrepreneur with ventures including selling aircraft, running a weight-loss clinic and raising live rock for aquariums — is looking for help to fund the project, which he estimates will cost $400,000 to $500,000.
He said he’ll offer 65 “naming opportunities” for individuals or groups who support Stonehenge.
“We want to talk to people who use the ocean and love the ocean to support the project,” Levine said.
The last major artificial reef deployed in Miami-Dade coastal waters was the 210-foot freighter Ophelia Brian in December 2009.