State investigates reef damage behind Breakers

Posted at 2:58 PM, Apr 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-07 04:21:06-04

Florida's Department of Environmental Protection is investigating damage reported at several areas of reef behind The Breakers on Palm Beach.

Divers have reported damage to the South Breakers Reef, Flower Gardens, and Ron's Reef.

On Tuesday the DEP sent divers to the site to investigate those reports.

Dee Ann Miller, spokeswoman for the DEP released this statement:

Department staff performed a dive yesterday to gather additional information. The results will now be evaluated to determine the appropriate course of action.

Should unauthorized reef damage be confirmed and it is proven that this damage was caused by a dredge associated with the project, remediation or mitigation for the damage to hardbottom resources would be required.

Local divers say the damage could have a negative effect on tourism in the area.

Captain Van Blakeman of Narcosis Dive Charters in Riviera Beach says he takes around 5,000 divers out on the water every year. He says many travel from out of state just to see Palm Beach County's reefs.

"They're coming down and they're spending money in hotels and lodging and food and entertainment," he said. "They bring their families with them."

But, Blakeman says the boost divers bring to the local tourism industry could be slowed by the damage. Charters won't easily be able to promote Palm Beach County's dive spots, he says, when some of the most popular sections are in disrepair.

"It's going to be hard to do, if we keep getting our reefs damaged," Blakeman said.