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State preparing report on restoring damaged coral reef

LAST UPDATED: 4:28 a.m. HST, Dec 29, 2010

This story has been corrected.

Question: Whatever happened to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' remedial action to pay for its damage of a Maui reef while installing an artificial reef?

Answer: The department has been asked to complete a report by January looking at ways to restore the reef and whether to remove some concrete blocks resting on the natural reef.

The department's Division of Aquatic Resources, responsible for overseeing the project, is also supposed to suggest ways to ensure the mistake does not happen again.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources in November decided the department was two-thirds responsible for the damage.

While the contractor American Marine Corp., was assessed $133,333 in fines for its part in the damage, the department will pay its two-thirds share of the penalty by spending uture funding or grants on reducing damage to coral reefs.

About 125 of some 1,400 concrete blocks were dropped totally or partially onto natural coral reefs. The department said more than 311 square meters were damaged well outside the area marked for dropping the concrete blocks.

While the division identified the drop area, its survey did not identify the coral reefs beyond the 50-yard drop zone, the department said.

During the deployment on Dec. 2, 2009, the barge carrying the concrete blocks appeared to drift as much as 300 to 400 yards from the deployment area, although division staff asked that the barge reposition itself closer to the designated drop zone, the department said.

The staff discovered the reef damage after it conducted a post-deployment dive.

The state has created artificial reefs in the past off Keawakapu, including one in the early 1960s that had 150 cars, 2,250 tires, 35 concrete slabs and a vessel.

In its review of the damage, the department recommended a total fine of $824,373 to be assessed to American Marine.

The department said other cases called for higher fines but noted that most of the natural coral in the damaged area was of low value and provided little habitat for marine species.

Department spokesman Deborah Ward said a suspension of the artificial reef program imposed after the accident has continued, pending action by a new gubernatorial administration.


This update was written by Gary T. Kubota. Suggest a topic for "Whatever Happened To ..." by writing Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail



» Damage to the reef off Keawakapu in South Maui totaled 311 square meters and not 311,000 square meters, as reported in the Dec. 16 "What Ever Happened to ..." column on Page A2. Also, the state Land Board did not direct the aquatics division to propose ways to prevent such an accident in the future, although the division as a matter of course will be reviewing its procedure.

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