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Artificial reef will receive an overhaul

Salvage workers Monday loaded a barge with sections of concrete culvert that will be dumped into the Gulf of Mexico this afternoon _ a new addition to the Jim Champion Artificial Reef.

The 2-year-old Champion reef, marked by buoys 17 miles west of Bayport, already is about a quarter-mile in diameter, said Linda Buck of the Hernando County Port Authority.

More than 140 concrete sections are expected to be hauled out to the reef by workers from Resolve Towing and Salvage. The culvert pieces will be submerged under 16 feet of water.

For the past few years, the state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have provided Hernando County with about $25,000 annually for artificial reef projects.

The first was a reef named for former Port Authority board member Albert Richardson, father of County Commissioner John Richardson. The Richardson reef also is known as "Fish Haven."

Buck, who administers the grant funds for the Port Authority, said the March 13 storm and flood delayed this trip to expand the Champion reef. The deadline to spend the money is June 30.

"The storm set us back a little bit, but we're going to make it," she said.

The Port Authority building along Shoal Line Boulevard also was destroyed in the storm. Buck now works in a nearby mobile home.

"We're in a temporary trailer with two little offices, right here at the boat ramp," Buck said. "We're doing all right. We're making it. But it's quite a difference from the other building."