New artwork makes its way to the bottom of the Gulf

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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - There's more than meets the eye beyond our white sandy beaches.

Twelve sculptures are now new artificial reefs on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico offshore of Walton County. This will help boost ecotourism and create a home for marine life. (WJHG/WECP)

"We are experiencing a reef deployment," said Coastal Resource Liaison for Walton County, Melinda Gates.

Thursday, 12 sculptures found a new home on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico offshore of Walton County.

"This is a special one because we actually had a bunch of artists who got to create these modules that we're deploying," said Gates.

As part of the Underwater Museum of Art, artists from around the world can now showcase their work to divers, and sea life about 50 feet below the water's surface.

But getting the sculptures down there isn't easy.

"We have a, it's pretty neat, a dynamic positioning system that'll actually hold the boat in location within a meter and then we'll use the crane. I have a computer here that has the crane boom that I can see and direct the crane operator via radio," said Captian of the deployment barge, Stewart Walter.

Once a sculpture's base hits the sand it creates a new ecotourism opportunity for Walton County.

"We love all of the environmental aspects of the county and this just gives one more plus that people can come and see Walton County and enjoy living here," said Gates.

"The creativity on those sculptures was amazing, I love all of the different kinds that went down. I'm excited to try and get down there myself," said Walton County resident Austin Buzzett.

While this artwork is something beautiful to see underwater, it's doing more than just providing a pretty sight to divers. It's also creating a home for sea life.

"By creating these artificial reefs, it creates that location where they can go back to and find a food source," said Gates.

"To bring more wildlife, marine activities and ecotourism to the area is only a good thing," said Buzzett.

Creating a habitat marine life and humans alike can enjoy.

"We wanna make a habitat that's gonna last forever, you know, that's the goal, we don't want to put trash out there, we wanted to do something really nice," said Walter.

If you are diving out by the artificial reefs, officials want to remind you to follow all of the safety precautions and always have a diver's flag up when you're in the water.

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