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Family expanding on artificial reef off Jupiter coast in honor of late son

Posted at 7:28 PM, Aug 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-10 21:27:21-04

Family and friends are remembering a Jupiter man who was killed after trying to save his friend while they were snorkeling.

Now, a foundation named in his honor is working to save our coral reefs, bringing his life's mission full circle.

This morning, it launched their biggest endeavor to add on to an artificial reef being built off the Palm Beach County coast.

"He loved to fish, loved to dive," said Scott Harris, Andrew Harris' father.

On Wednesday morning, Scott watched his son's passion come to life in the sparkling waters off the coast of Jupiter.

"I think every time I think about what happened, I work harder on the foundation," he said.

Andrew was only 26 when he was killed by a boat while snorkeling near the Jupiter Inlet in June 2014. Since then, his family created the Andrew "Red" Harris Foundation, helping to bring life back to the ocean Andrew loved so much.

"We ended up building artificial reefs where we can create life in his memory," said Harris.

This week, the foundation is adding on to a giant reef it’s been building.

"This is a lot of reef modules that we're doing here. It is probably the biggest project that the Andrew 'Red' Harris Foundation has done yet," said Corinne Fredrick with McCulley Marine Services, which assists the foundation with boat power while creating the reef.

Atop a large barge, a crane has been dropping in 134 artificial reef modules weighing 6,000 pounds a piece. The modules, which are specially designed by stone facility Viewcrete in Jupiter Farms, are hauled down to the port and then placed on the barge.

"We're building Bahamian coral head replicas and putting them down in between giant boulder pile reefs so that we have diverse habitat of all sizes," said Harris.

About 1,000 tons of boulders are also being dropped into the area, creating even more habitat for fish. The modules are a more natural alternative for corals and other wildlife to grow on.

"Our modules interact with the current, and scour away the sand, re-exposing the hard bottom and allowing life to return," said Harris.

The effort to create the artificial reef is not an easy or cheap undertaking. The foundation partners with the county, the town of Jupiter and other organizations for help.

"This is a $500,000 project and about $350,000 of it comes from us," said Harris.

That's why the Andrew Red Harris Foundation relies on donations, fundraisers and sales from t-shirts to help fund their reef building expeditions. A golf tournament fundraiser is being planned in October at Jupiter Country Club.

Click here to learn how to get involved.

Harris said rebuilding the reef sends a message that the local coral reef environment is in peril.

"There's already a disease outbreak, which I'm told, threatens to kill all the hard corals in Palm Beach County. If that happens, the only way the reefs are going to expand are with projects like ours, with artificial reefs being built," Harris said. "Otherwise, decades from now, we'll wonder what happened to all those fish we used to have."

Despite the progress being made on Andrew's reef, the pain still lingers for his family.

"There's a limit to how special any moment can get when you're still grieving. But it's a matter of doing something. Doing something in his honor," Harris said.

But they hope this reef will send the message Andrew always wanted to share with the world.

"Not only is this a great way to memorialize Andrew and keep his legacy alive but we're also creating an everlasting legacy in the ocean as well," said Fredrick.

It has taken crews about a week to deploy the new modules into the reef. They expect to be finished on Sunday.