MIAMI BEACH (CBS4) – You’d probably never give it any thought if you passed by in a boat where Government Cut meets the ocean.

It’s hard to see from above.

Just three tiny white buoys mark the spot just a few yards off the rocky shore.   Nestled on the sandy bottom, just before the cut, drops off into the deep channel are six large concrete modules.  They’re the new home of 128 live corals that used to live under the old South Pointe Park Pier, which is about to be torn down.

Industrial Divers Corporation’s Rocco Galleta ran the project to relocate them.

“We’ve created a small artificial reef basically. It’s almost like a little sanctuary,” said Galleta.

This secret coral garden, as it’s been described, was created out of necessity by Florida law.  The state requires these corals be relocated before the construction project can proceed.

The City of Miami Beach spent about $100,000 moving the corals.  Now that the relocation is done, they can move full speed ahead with rebuilding the pier.

“All of the live corals now have been relocated to a new habitat, which is an artificial reef surface,” said Galleta.

The new “underwater garden” is also in Government Cut, but several hundred yards to the west.

Moving live coral is not as simple as transplanting a few shrubs in your garden, for example.  The city says it was a complicated and delicate mission where, in some cases, the coral plants were picked individually form the piles under the old pier.  In other cases, divers had to move the large rocks upon which the corals were attached.

Galleta’s company finished the relocation project for the city in March.  Now fish are flocking to the new underwater garden, located in a place that perhaps only Galleta and his team will be the only ones to see with their own eyes, since diving the new artificial reef is not permitted due to the dangerous conditions that exist in this busy spot along Government Cut.

“It’s really the fish, the eco system, the marine life, the fish that live here that will benefit from the relocation of these corals,” said Maria Palacios of the City of Miami Beach.

Now, the city can get on with the business of knocking down the old pier.  However, Galleta’s work is not yet complete.  In 6 months, his team will be back to make a report on the health of the corals and the success of the transplant operation.


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