SLAUGHTER BEACH, Del. â€” Sixteen nautical miles from the Indian River Inlet and about 80 feet underwater, a building boom is under way at the Red Bird Reef.
One by one, a machine operator has been shoving hundreds of retired New York City subway cars off a barge, continuing the transformation of a barren stretch of ocean floor into a bountiful oasis, carpeted in sea grasses, walled thick with blue mussels and sponges, and teeming with black sea bass and tautog.
â€œTheyâ€™re basically luxury condominiums for fish,â€ Jeff Tinsman, artificial reef program manager for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said as one of 48 of the 19-ton retirees from New York City sank toward the 666 already on the ocean floor.
This is like a gully version of Jason de Caires Taylor’s Underwater Sculpture Park. There’s even beef developing between overcrowded fishes, between the fishermen trying to catch them, between states vying for cars for their ocean floors and between agencies over whether or not subway cars are the best materials to be dumping into the ocean.