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Okaloosa County awarded BP money to build artificial reefs
OKALOOSA COUNTY -- More than a million dollars is coming to Okaloosa County to build artificial reefs.
The money comes from a BP fund to restore natural resources.
Each county turned in a list of project proposals.
A panel of trustees decided which ones will receive funding.
Expanding the reef system is good for marine life and the economy.
Laura Hussey "Who knew you could see all of this underneath our local waters. We're at Emerald Coast Scuba where they say there could be even more sea life if there were more places for them to live"
Divers like Ray Thibodeau have to log some training time in the pool, but what they love is sharing the Emerald Coast's underwater world with visitors.
Ray Thibodeau/Dive Instructor "It's like wow, the eyes get really big and you can see a smile behind the regulator, and it's really cool cause now it's like WOW"
Summer tourists bring Emerald Coast Scuba up to 70 % of their business, so a new artificial reef project is good news.
Anna Schmitz/Emerald Coast Scuba "We are limited in bottom structure, and bottom structure is what attracts fish. So whether it's a wreck that they put down or a concrete block or even a coke can, they will attract fish"
In this case the reefs will be made of concrete chunks used targets donated by Eglin Air Force Base.
Two of the reefs in the 1.2 million dollar project will be offshore; the third will be a "beach reef" off of Henderson Beach State Park great for snorkelers.
Anna "Destin really has only one main snorkeling area, so it gets pretty crowded in the summertime. So if we can increase the options for snorkel sites, that would be a big boon to our summertime business."
While snorkeling and diving are their passions, they say the reefs will also help the fishing industry.
Ray "That'll help raise the economy around here because more people will be getting into the water and see what we love, why we love it, hopefully they'll love it too"
Laura Hussey "Even with the money in the pipeline, there's still a process to go through. It could be up to a year before the reefs are in the water."