Group working to get snorkeling reefs off of Orange Beach, Gulf State Park

BY JOHN MULLEN johnm@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 8/9/16

ORANGE BEACH, AL — Underwater sights available to snorkelers in and around Perdido Pass in Orange Beach can be fascinating.

“There is some pretty nice snorkeling over there,” Vince Lucido …

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Group working to get snorkeling reefs off of Orange Beach, Gulf State Park

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ORANGE BEACH, AL — Underwater sights available to snorkelers in and around Perdido Pass in Orange Beach can be fascinating.

“There is some pretty nice snorkeling over there,” Vince Lucido said.

But it’s not without it’s risks.

“If you’re snorkeling around the pass it’s like playing in the middle of the highway,” Lucido said. “It’s not real safe with all the boat traffic going in and out of there.”

Lucido, president of the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation, and his group are working to develop more snorkeling options. The foundation’s first big project was getting funding to have the 271-foot LuLu sank as a diving reef about 17 miles off the coast of Orange Beach.

But there were other goals in mind as well. Lucido’s focus is now set on snorkeling reefs about 120 to 130 yards off shore in about 12 to 18 feet of water.

“There’s a second sandbar and when it drops off it will be right at the edge of that drop off is where we’ll start putting them,” Lucido said.

He hopes they can be deployed by August of 2017.

“We’re excited about it,” he said. “It’s something that the foundation has been wanting to do from the beginning. I think it’s going to be a great thing to have for our coast just a place to go snorkel.”

Lucido and company are eyeing three spots, two in Orange Beach and one in Gulf State Park, for the offshore attractions.

“They’d be the beach access at Perdido Pass beach, east of the pass, the Romar Beach access and the state park pavilion,” he said. “Those are the three sites we’ve surveyed so far.”

He’s estimating it will be about a $270,000 project and is hoping money comes through on some grants the foundation has applied for.

“We’ll go through it and try to have a fundraiser with individuals and trying to help the cities and county to help us out,” Lucido said. “The state has got $100,000 to apply toward the snorkeling reefs. They’ve got some additional money for the permitting.

“We’re looking at roughly $270,000 and the state’s got $100,000 so we’re looking at needing $170,000 to do all three sites at the same time. If not we’ll just do one site at the time as the funds become available.”

The foundation is still awaiting word on whether or not the grant money will come through.

Walter Marine, the same company employed to sink the LuLu, will supply the eco-reefs for the snorkel areas. Each module is made of sandstone and concrete and has three or four plates on each one. They are about five feet across.

“It’s the same modules he put over in Perdido Key for Escambia County and over in Pensacola,” Lucido said. “We’d like to have at least 30 per site and they are roughly about $3,000 a piece installed. That’s what we use to budget. We won’t know until we bid it out what the final price will be for each module.”

The first hurdle in getting the reefs in the Gulf lies with the permitting.

“They are working on permits to get that done. Once we get the permits it will be just a matter of getting them contracted to get them installed.”