Divers are removing hundreds of old tires and debris environmentalists dumped off the coast of Southern California 30 years ago to help create an artificial barrier reef.
Diving crews began cleaning up the mess earlier this month, according to the California Coastal Commission. Activist Rodolphe Streichenberger dumped the refuse in the bay in 1988 to establish an experimental, artificial reef – he fought for years to prevent its cleanup.
“It’s about time this was cleaned up. Dumping plastic and other trash into our oceans is not the way to restore the marine ecosystem,” commission Chair Dayna Bochco said in a press statement Wednesday. “There is an estimated 18 billion pounds of plastic that enters the world’s oceans every year and we must do what we can to clean this up.”
Streichenberger’s makeshift reef covered several acres of ocean floor and consisted of 1,500 used tires, 2,000 plastic jugs covered with plastic rope, 100 sections of PVC pipe and fishing net, along with Styrofoam and iron roads. He also failed to obtain permission from the commission for the project.
Streichenberger’s now-defunct Marine Forests Society sued the commission’s authority to force the group to cease and desist cluttering up the ocean floor. The California Supreme Court eventually reversed a lower court ruling permitting the reef and sided with the commission.
He thought his experiment was good for the environment, but scientists warned for years that the Marine Forests Society’s actions were harmful and spreading poisoning the ocean’s ecosystem.
“State scientists said the tires contained harmful toxins, the material was not dense enough to anchor to the ocean floor and warned the discarded netting and ropes could trap fish and marine mammals,” according to the commission.
Divers throughout the years found the trash had spread throughout the sea floor and held only “the type of marine life commonly found on pier pilings and boat bottoms,” the commission added.
The group sued the commission in the early 2000s, claiming it is unconstitutional because the legislature appointed eight of its 12 members and do not have fixed terms. The governor was responsible for appointing the other four. Marine Forests Society argued at the time that the arrangement violates the Constitution’s doctrine of separation of powers.
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