RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A project eight years in the making is using cutting-edge technology to not only sustain an important reef in the Pamlico River but to also provide economic benefits to a community of recreational anglers.

On Tuesday, a 3-D printed artificial reef will be submerged in the brackish waters of the Pamlico River near Bayview, North Carolina.

The printed reef will be assembled using 100 cubes, each measuring 3 feet by 3 feet and weighing roughly 1,850 pounds, a news release from the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina said on Thursday.

To assemble the reef, the cubes will be transported by a barge to the Bayview Artificial Reef site at marker AR-291. They will be deployed about 100 yards off of the shoreline near the mouth of Bath Creek.

“Our mission is to advocate for North Carolina coastal resources, not only for those of us currently using them but also for future generations, so we’re always looking for new partnerships and opportunities to develop similar projects that enhance the health and viability of our fisheries,” said David Sneed, CCA NC Executive Director.

One of 100 3-D printed reef segments that will be launched on site May 26. Photo courtesy of the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina.

What is the reef made of?

A Raleigh-based company called Natrx designed and produced the sand and cement reef cubes using a new type of 3-D printing technology known as “dry forming.”

The reef was made to have natural-like textures and curved surfaces that are conducive to sustaining aquatic life. The materials used, according to the release, are known to attract oysters and mussels as well as crustaceans, invertebrates and other organisms.

The small crevices and holes in the structures will provide a refuge for regionally important fish species such as striped bass and speckled trout — major draws for recreational anglers.

How will the 100 blocks be installed in the river?

The Bayview Reef site will encompass 1.8 underwater acres, the Coastal Conservation Association said.

The 100 reef blocks will be spaced 10 feet apart in rows with 40 feet between each row. This will allow multiple boats to fish the area without concerns of crowding.

What will a 3-D reef accomplish?

In short, the artificial reef is designed to achieve a thriving habitat for fish and other marine life. But in what ways is this made possible with these adaptive structures?

Well, first and foremost, the Coastal Conservation Association says the reef will improve the reproduction of marine life because it will be creating a better reservoir which, by improving the biological productivity, could — in the long term — revitalize the entire ecosystem.

There will also be human impacts accomplished as part of the project.

Improving the fish stock will provide an economic boost to the surrounding Beaufort County community through increased recreational fishing.

Launch set for May 26

The launch of the reef can be viewed by the public May 26 at 1907 Bayview Road in the town of Bath, North Carolina. Remarks will begin at 9 a.m. with dock departure at 10 a.m.

The reef launch represents a coordinated effort between the Coastal Conservation Association and the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries.

“Our hope is that this is just the beginning of an ongoing partnership with the NC DMF that will result in more habitat improvements in coastal North Carolina,” said Bobby Rice, CCA NC Board VP for Habitat. “We want to do our part to help improve our coastal ecosystem with the construction of more reefs, including oyster reefs and ARs for recreational anglers.”

Once put in place, the Bayview Reef will be one of 25 estuarine artificial reefs maintained by the DMF.

The department’s reef programs receive funding from the North Carolina General Assembly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sport Fish Restoration Program, the North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License Grant Program and from private donations.

Additional donors who made the Bayview Reef possible include individual donors and corporate partners Grady-White Boats, Nutrien, Toadfish Outfitters, and the Building Conservation Trust. Deployment of the Natrx modules is funded by a USFWS Sportfish Restoration grant awarded to the Division of Marine Fisheries Artificial Reef Program.