Osborne Reef is an artificial reef off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, constructed of concrete jacks in a 50-foot (15 m) -diameter circle.
In 2007, after several false starts, cleanup efforts began when the United States military took on the project. This cleanup exercise provides the military with a real-world training environment for their diving and recovery personnel, coupled with the benefit of helping the Florida coast without incurring significant costs to the state.
With endorsement of the project by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Broward County government approved the project: that spring more than 100 privately owned boats enthusiastically volunteered to assist with the project; accompanied by USS Thrush (MSC-204), thousands of tire bundles were simultaneously dropped onto the reef. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company provided equipment for the auspicious undertaking; even supporting the project so far as to drop a gold-painted tire from a Goodyear Blimp to christen the site. The culmination of the project was the deposit of over two million tires bound with steel clips over 36 acres (150,000 m2) of the ocean floor, approximately 7,000 feet (2,100 m) offshore and at a depth of 65 feet (20 m). Multiple concrete jacks were spread in a circle of 50 feet (15 m) diameter.
Lastly, the concern of adjacent coastal areas is that the tires are not remaining within the boundaries of Osborne Reef. In 1995, Hurricane Opal managed to spread over 1,000 tires onto the Florida Panhandle, west of Pensacola; and in 1998, Hurricane Bonnie deposited thousands of the tires onto North Carolina beaches.
In 2001, Dr. Robin Sherman of Nova Southeastern University was awarded a $30,000 (equivalent to about $43,000 in 2019) grant by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to begin a tire removal program. She was able to coordinate the removal of only 1,600 tires from the reef, and at a cost estimated at $17 (equivalent to $24.55 in 2019) per tire.
In 2007, Broward County contacted the United States Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs about their Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program, which looks for civil-military projects that improve military readiness and address the needs of the American public. CWO Donovan Motley said that the cleanup of Osborne Reef easily met those requirements: "This project allows these military divers and Army LCU crew members' real-world training in 'wartime' salvage ops. And perhaps, more importantly, it exercises interoperability with federal, state and county agencies and these skill sets could have the most significance in the aftermath of a Katrina-type natural disaster." Beginning in June 2007, the United States military and Coast Guard began "DiveExEast 07" to ascertain the best and most efficient processes for the cleanup effort. Barring unforeseen operational commitments and engagements, military divers hope to use this project as a training platform for several years and "recover the maximum number of tires possible from day one." Coastal America, an office of the United States federal government was tasked with coordinating the cleanup of the reef; they were instrumental in finalizing the deal wherein the Florida government would allocate $2,000,000 (equivalent to about $2,500,000 in 2019) to cover transport and recycling of the tires. Ken Banks with the Florida DEP estimated the project to take three to five years, and while that timeline won't allow for the removal of all two million tires, it should mitigate the majority of the damage they're causing to the corals and coastline, though Banks predicted it could take decades for the reefs to rebuild.
Key members of the 2008 cleanup effort were US Army Captain Russell Destremps and his 86th Engineer Dive Team; on August 10, 2009, they were presented with the 2008 Coastal America Partnership Award and a letter from President Obama for their participation in the reef cleanup effort. The award recognizes "outstanding partnerships that make a significant contribution toward the restoration and protection of our Nation's coastal and marine environment" and is the only environmental award of its kind given by the White House. Two days later in Hollywood, California, Coastal America and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs David L. McGinnis awarded the partner cleanup team from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection the same award. The 86th Engineer Dive Team deployed to the AOR in March 2009 for a one-year stint, and was unable to participate in that year's cleanup term.