Two 190-foot vessels to be deployed as artificial reefs off Destin-Fort Walton Beach coast

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On March 1, 2022, the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners approved a 5-year plan to make Destin-Fort Walton Beach the dive capital of Florida, and allocated $2 million toward a pair of large research vessels as part of the first phase.

  • These vessels are named the DOLPHIN and MANTA.
  • Each is approximately 190ft.

According to Okaloosa Coastal Resource Manager Alex Fogg, the complexity of these vessel structures not only provides an ideal location for scuba diving and fishing activities, but also essential habitat for commercially and recreationally important species that our destination depends on. 

MANTA vessel (📸 Alex Fogg)

“Making targeted vessel investments to increase the density of unique, marketable artificial reefs and experiences aligns with our destination stewardship approach by expanding fish habitat and expanding our list of visitor adventures by creating interesting water destinations for diving and fishing,” said Fogg.

  • The MANTA and DOLPHIN are both surplus research vessels that were used for a lot of oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.
MANTA vessel (📸 Alex Fogg)

The original offer for the MANTA and DOLPHIN was $1 million each, without cleaning. The county negotiated a 25% reduction to $757,500 per vessel, including the 5% broker fee and cleaning.

Last Tuesday, the commissioners approved a contract with Tri Native Contractors for the acquisition, cleanup and preparation of the MANTA and DOLPHIN vessels for $1,515,000.

DOLPHIN vessel (📸 Alex Fogg)

Additionally, they approved a contract in the amount of $170,000 with Walter Marine to oversee flood plan prep and perform transport and deployment of the MANTA and DOLPHIN as artificial reefs.

  • Walter Marine has extensive experience deploying 200+ ft vessels, and has previously performed reef work for the county. 

According to Fogg, these will be the two largest vessels that Okaloosa County has sunk besides the Thomas Hayward Liberty Ship (400ft), which was deployed as an artificial reef in April of 1977.

“We look forward to getting this project underway and getting these two vessels sunk,” added Fogg.

DOLPHIN vessel (📸 Alex Fogg)

Tentatively, the plan is to deploy these vessels before the end of the fiscal year (Oct 1). Exact locations are not yet set.

🙌 Thanks to our sponsors

This coverage is made possible thanks to Caliber Car Wash in Fort Walton Beach! Caliber features top-of-the-line equipment and tons of free detailing tools for use after your wash, including free vacuums, air fresheners, mat cleaners, detailing air, cleaners, and towels. 

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