A collaboration among Eglin Air Force Base, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Okaloosa County has enhanced fishing opportunities off the Florida Panhandle while saving the federal government money.
AFRL donated 2,000 tons of concrete pieces to the county that had outlived their usefulness as targets on the Eglin range, reported Team Eglin Public Affairs. The county, which paid to haul the concrete from the range, used the rubble to create two artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this month.
“Not only did the Air Force save more than $60,000 in disposal costs of the concrete, Okaloosa County gained two artificial reefs that will enhance the local residents and tourism base with more scuba diving and fishing opportunities,” said Col. Nate Smith, acting deputy director of the Air Force Research Lab Munitions Directorate.
The county named one of the reefs “Mac’s Reef,” after a long-time AFRL employee who had passed away earlier this year.
The collaboration grew out of efforts by officials at Eglin and Hurlburt Field to meet with the bases’ neighbors to identify partnership ideas that could benefit Northwest Florida.
“The Community Partnership Program’s goal is for the Air Force and the community to partner together, understand each other’s opportunities and challenges, and deliver mutually beneficial services at a reduced cost while strengthening those relationships in the community,” said Col. Craig Johnson, commander of the 96th Civil Engineer Group. “All of these opportunities in a small, yet meaningful, way strengthen our communities and our nation,” said Johnson.