An artificial reef recently was placed 23 miles off the Mississippi coast in 85 feet to enhance fishing in the popular Fish Haven 13 area, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources announced today (Nov. 2).

The reef, composed of three structures, was made possible because of a partnership between MDMR and NASA's Stennis Space Center, the agency said.

Back on June 17, Stennis Space Center employees began preparing a 107,000-gallon hydrogen sphere to be deployed south of Pascagoula, and on Oct. 27 the sphere was dropped with two smaller tanks also donated by Stennis.

The large sphere was built in the 1960s and used as a reservoir for liquid hydrogen in case of an emergency during testing at the second stage of Saturn V.

"The sphere no longer was needed after the Saturn V Program ended," said Bryon Maynard, a lead system engineer in the NASA Engineering and Test Directorate at Stennis. "A lot of people forgot what it was or what it had been built for. It became known as the 'big round thing,' the BRT.

"Everyone who visited out here would ask about it."

The BRT, which weighs 98,000 pounds, sank in less than 10 minutes with the help of air bags attached to the top by Matthews Brothers of Pass Christian to make sure the container sank in an upright position on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

The sphere measures 37 feet tall and 45 feet wide, and will provide a 35-foot relief on the bottom of the Gulf, MDMR said.

To ensure safety - proper clearance for passing shipping vessels - the tank was placed in 85 feet of water to gain enough clearance for the vessels.

Kerwin Cuevas, MDMR Artificial Reef Bureau director, said the BRT has a safe clearance of 50 feet. Cuevas also said the new structure will immediately attract baitfish that ultimately will attract predators like red snapper, mangrove snapper, grouper and trigger fish.

The Oct. 27 project is the latest in an effort to enhance deep-water fishing in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Since Hurricane Katrina - when nearly 100 percent of Mississippi's artificial reefs were destroyed - the MDMR has conducted 113 artificial reef deployments.

Partnerships such as these, along with federal funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) after Katrina and continuous effort by the MDMR's Artificial Reef Burerau have helped to restore more than 100 percent of Mississippi's inshore and offshore artificial reefs.