New York to use old Tappan Zee Bridge to expand 6 artificial reefs off Long Island

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Stacey Sager has details on a project to expand Long Island's artificial reefs.

Talk about reduce, re-use, recycle! Soon the old Tappan Zee Bridge will be buried under water at six different reefs off the coast of Long Island.

Like buried treasure, artificial reefs have long been the key for local fishermen. But only up to a point, they tell us.

"There's not too much space," Fire Island fisherman Charles Witek said. "The reef gets picked over pretty quickly. The cream of the fish are taken pretty early in the season."

The New York fishing industry also faces tougher restrictions than most states. And so New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he hopes the new reef expansion will bring more sea life to the area. Sea life, including black sea bass, cod, lobster, and perhaps, more sharks, dolphins and whales.

As for choosing the old Tappan Zee, he called it a sort of "bridge afterlife."

"You go to bridge heaven, which is, you go BELOW the water, and you actually create marine habitat," Cuomo said, as the crowd applauded.

"Are you kidding me? This is awesome!" said Rob Weltner, another fisherman from Freeport. "As a South-Shore person who spent a lot of time out on the water, fishing, diving, I mean, this is awesome news."

But not everyone is on board, including one group called NY Fish, representing 1,200 fishermen. They feel the governor is focusing more on burying trash and less on helping New York get the federal fishing rights it deserves.

"New York receives 7 percent of the federal allocation, when you have states like North Carolina and Virginia have a combined share of almost 50 percent," said Daniel Rodgers, a Southampton attorney representing the group.

The governor's office says the mountain of material will include de-contaminated remains of vessels, pipes, jetty rock and the old Tappan Zee, which will total nearly 50,000 cubic yards.

Officials say 33 barges will bring it to six reefs. In the Atlantic, the reefs are off the Rockaways, Hempstead, Fire Island, Moriches and Shinnecock. There is an additional reef in the Long Island Sound, off Smithtown, along with five others across the state that officials hope to expand next year.

As for New York's federal fishing rights, Governor Cuomo calls that a separate issue, which New York may fight in court. Meanwhile, the new material in the reef expansion starts going underwater next month.

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