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Residents, officials debate reef repairs


WAILUKU » Removing concrete modules that were mistakenly dropped on coral within the Keawa­kapu artificial reef off South Maui would be too expensive and could further damage the corals, residents said at a meeting to discuss the future of the reef.

Cole Keaoulu Santos, who works for the Maui County Department of Water Supply and is a scuba instructor, said there are better ways to spend $400,000. He thinks the money should be used to expand the reef rather than remove the modules, the Maui News reported Monday.

"I’ve moved heavy stuff before, and I don’t even want to imagine moving those things. That is the most scary thing ever. Rebar rusts; when the rebar rusts, the concrete cracks, and when the concrete cracks it disintegrates," he said.

In December 2009 almost five acres of live coral had about 125 slabs of concrete accidentally placed on it during a reef expansion project.

Leslie Kuloloio, a Kahoolawe representative for the Aha Moku Advisory Committee, and other community members said they are worried that problems with the removal of the modules could occur, such as crews mishandling modules and accidentally dropping them on more live coral.

"Let nature do its modifications and let nature do its transfiguration," Kulo­loio said.

In November 2010 the state Board of Land and Natural Resources said the state was two-thirds responsible and contractor American Marine Corp. was one-third responsible for the accident. The board authorized a settlement in which the state Division of Aquatic Resources would pay $268,000 and American Marine would pay $132,000.

Richard Brock, a private consultant hired by Planning Solutions Inc., prepared a technical and corrective action report for the Department of Land and Natural Resources and discussed it at Thursday’s meeting in Wai­luku. The report, done with the Division of Aquatic Resources, found more than 85 percent of the reef to be structurally sound, with 312 square meters of coral damaged in the 2009 incident.

After reviewing the assessments of the 52-acre artificial reef, they found that the modules covered only 0.2 percent of live coral in the artificial reef.

Although Brock said the damage is having a small effect on the overall reef, DLNR recommends removing the modules or, at the least, placing them at an appropriate substratum.

Brock outlined possible methods to help remedy the problems, which include crews placing modules in a "piled" configuration to improve shelter space for marine life.

Russell Sparks, the Division of Aquatic Resources’ Maui education specialist, acknowledged that there is the possibility of causing more damage. But, he said, the goal is to return the reef to its natural state.

"Those blocks staying in place, it’s going to take a lot longer for the reef to grow over them and come back to a natural state," he said.

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