In Florida, so many of our natural resources flourish beneath the waterline. In and off shore reefs attract fish, create habitat for soft corals, and can even break wave energy before it reaches the shore, reducing erosion. Reef balls and other forms of artificial reefs are critical components of living shorelines, which use these artificial reefs along with native plants to stabilize and build out coastlines. As climate change threatens sea-level rise and more intense storm surge, living shorelines are a cost-efficient, resilient way to protect the coast while providing essential wildlife habitat.
Larry Beggs, President of Reef Innovations, has been leading the charge on the importance of artificial reefs for more than 20 years. Beggs is a fifth-generation Floridian who began his career on the land, specifically in his family business with horses and cattle. At nineteen years old, a friend talked him into trying scuba diving, leading him to develop a passion for the sport. As Chairman of a volunteer-led reef restoration project off the coast of Cape Canaveral, he researched ways to build artificial reefs. The research led him to an article about reef ball prototypes in a YMCA publication, and the rest is history.
Today, Beggs is the President of Reef Innovations, a Sarasota-based company and a worldwide contractor for reef balls. With over 23 years of experience, Beggs and his crew build projects of all sizes utilizing local labor and material, providing economic stimulus and community ownership. With the singular goal of reef restoration in mind, project locations vary from remote islands to metropolitan areas, and Beggs’ team designs reef modules of all sizes and shapes to fit into unique ecosystems.
Beggs sees the direct connection between reef preservation and land conservation. When high levels of nutrients from runoff and agriculture end up in our waterways, the resulting algal blooms have a devastating impact on Florida’s reefs and marine life. “Everyone needs to understand that what you do on land, on your street, and in your cul-de-sac drains out of your home or into the stream behind their house and ends up in the bay, the ocean, and ultimately the reefs,” he explains. “Our reefs and our land are not two separate resources, they benefit each other and when one becomes damaged, the others do too.”
The future of his work is focused on educating residents and decision-makers on the importance of reef restoration and protection. As a natural climate solution, artificial reefs and reef balls are a critical tool in a community’s toolbox, and Beggs advocates for more streamlined permitting as the need for coastal protection becomes increasingly urgent.
To learn more about Reef Innovations, Eternal Reefs, and the Reef Ball Foundation visit www.reefball.org