MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — In industrial plants, when old machinery reaches the end of its life and gets replaced, sometimes it ends up in a landfill. Other times, it gets refurbished and transformed into a fishing reef.

In just fourteen months, the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) has dropped 29 different industrial pieces such as boilers and concrete pipes as fishing reefs in the Alabama Wildlife Federation Nearshore Artificial Reef Zone, which is eight miles south of Dauphin Island and is about an eight-square-mile area. 

WKRG News 5 followed along as Alabama Power, the AWF, and other partners sank the last reef of this mission. This reef, an old boiler from an Alabama Power plant that was inspired to be a fishing reef by Alabama Power employees who love to fish, had to be refurbished to be safe for fish. 

“There were some retrofits that actually had to happen to that equipment, and we have been working over the past few months to make that happen and to receive the necessary permits that we need to place the reef,” said Beth Thomas with Alabama Power. 

To sink the boiler, two tugboats sprayed streams of water into the barge that held the boiler. In just about an hour and a half, the barge and the boiler made it to the bottom of the Gulf, now a fish hotel. The Gulf floor in this zone is very flat, so these artificial reefs provide structures for fish to hide out, feel safe, and feed. 

“We are improving the marine fishery, the ecology, and the habitat within that zone. It will certainly provide great places to fish but at the same time, it will help build the whole marine ecosystem in the process,” said Tim Gothard with the AWF. 

The reefs not only help the fish but also those who catch them. The repurposed pieces of machinery boost both the economy and the environment, which is another way companies are coming together in Growing the Gulf Coast.