Historic Sidney Lanier Bridge Becomes Reef Habitat

GON Staff | July 1, 2005

The first Sidney Lanier Bridge was constructed in the mid-1950s and served as a Golden Isles landmark until it was replaced with a new state-of-the-art cable structure in 2004.

The old bridge was built with a combination of concrete roadbed and a metal lift span. Over the years, the machinery grew finicky, and the commercial ships got so large that many appeared to scrape their sides as they passed through the span. It was time for a change.

Once the replacement schedule was announced, those of us who had long worked in the shadow of the old bridge immediately recognized the potential of the pilings, rails, and roadbed as artificial reef material. Thanks to a partnership of the Georgia DOT, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Georgia Ports Authority and the Georgia DNR, this potential became a reality in 2005. 

A barge load of rubble from the old Lanier Bridge heads toward a reef site.

Henry Ansley, supervisor with the Habitat Program of the Coastal Resources Division and coordinator of the artificial reef project, spearheaded the effort and worked almost daily with the DOT staff and with Scott Bridge Inc., the contractor selected to demo the old bridge.

“It was a great opportunity to show how a private-public partnership can benefit all,” Ansley said. “Instead of the concrete going into a landfill, it went to three of our artificial reefs sites. Almost immediately we had reports from anglers who were catching black sea bass and sheepshead on the concrete and rebar piles. Over the years, this habitat will only improve as it becomes colonized by more sea life.”

It took nearly two years to complete the demolition of the old Lanier Bridge. After the lift span was salvaged, the concrete structure was brought down with explosives.

Cranes equipped with clamshell buckets scooped up the pieces from the bottom of the Brunswick River and loaded them onto barges, which were towed offshore. By the time the demolition was completed, 34 barge loads of concrete rubble and reinforcing steel, weighing approximately 60,000 tons, had been carried to F, SFC, and ALT reefs and deployed in large piles located in depths from 30 to 55 feet. Now it’s fish traffic and not automobiles that will be cruising the old bridge, and Georgia anglers will be the ones looking to hitch a ride.

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