NYCDEP about to destroy historic 10 year NYSDEC salt marsh, oyster, and mussel restoration at McNeil Park, College Point, Queens

March 31 2017,
To: NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos State Senator Tony Avella

New York City Department of Environmental Protection is racing ahead with irresponsible plans to destroy the most successful oyster, mussel, and salt marsh restoration project ever done in New York City, or anywhere else.

These projects, approved by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, have for 10 years pioneered new methods for restoring these valuable ecosystems, providing habitat for birds, fish, and shellfish, protecting shores from erosion, and improving coastal water quality, which could save the City billions of dollars in adapting to and mitigating global warming and global sea level rise (please see current photos attached).

The MacNeil Park projects have shown for the first time how to restore vibrant marine ecosystems to barren shores where everything had died from toxic waste dumping at the site for more than 50 years. They not only restored life to a wasteland, but showed for the first time how to grow these organisms under extreme stress conditions that they normally could not survive. Our team is now expanding the project to fill in all the gaps.

10 years of work will be destroyed if DEP puts the storm drain where they intend. This will not only flush water shown by chemical analysis to have illegally high concentrations of toxic lead, copper, zinc, hydrocarbons, and untreated sewage, but the water flow will wash away the beach sediment and cause severe local coastal erosion at a site that is a designated public recreational area and entry way for kayaks.

Using the Biorock restoration method, we had 100% survival of oysters during the winter when 93% of control oysters died. The few surviving control oysters stopped growing in winter, and their shells were chalky, crumbly, and dissolving due to cold acidic water, but Biorock oysters grew all winter, and their shells were bright and shiny with no dissolution.

The Biorock restoration method has grown salt marsh lower in the intertidal zone than salt marsh grass can tolerate, it grows taller, faster, greener, and spreads faster than controls, grows back in larger spreading patches after every winter when controls die, and has prolific root growth and mussel populations which bind sediment and prevent erosion by waves.

The mussel growth has been so extraordinary that in a few years we have raised the height of the beach where we are growing them by up to a foot, much faster than the rate of global sea level rise, about an eighth of an inch a year. Therefore, we are able to grow beaches upwards at places where they are now washing away from erosion.

Oysters have spontaneously settled near our projects, but not away from them, showing that oyster settlement is increased by the Biorock process. These oysters have shown exceptionally high growth and survival.

These incredible results show for the first time that it is possible to extend salt marshes seaward to protect coasts from erosion. All salt marshes in the US are rapidly eroding and collapsing into the sea due to global sea level rise and increased storm wave strength caused by global warming. Jamaica Bay is the worst example of this. The methods pioneered at the McNeil Park project could save Jamaica Bay salt marshes, and help protect Kennedy Airport from flooding by the sea and storm surges (remember Sandy!).

This destruction of a historic restoration project is entirely un-necessary! There is an existing storm drain at the site that runs out past the project to the low tide mark, built long ago to prevent contaminated water washing directly onto the beach. But instead of using it or upgrading it, DEP plans to dump polluted water directly at the shoreline high tide mark, and flush away 10 years of extraordinarily successful work with polluted water!

The bulldozers are right at the edge of the project, ready to move into action unless DEC can get them to responsibly act to save New York City’s precious green shorelines! We urgently appeal for your help to save the projects that will make New York the leader in natural shore protection.

Sincerely yours,
Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

Follow up to September 14th 2016 letter:
Please Stop College Point storm drain killing world’s most important salt marsh and oyster restoration projects

McNeil Park is an important recreational area in Queens, that is now a pioneering environmental restoration and public education site. All photos were taken on March 29 and March 30 2017
Wildlife is now returning to a devastated area because of the restoration projects. These Green Shoreline ecosystems provide the best and cheapest protection of the coast against erosion and storm surges
The proposed discharge point for water polluted with unacceptable levels of lead, zinc, copper, and hydrocarbons, will also dump untreated sewage at the shore line onto the beach during storm events. right onto the public kayak entry area.
DEP has dumped pipes to flush contaminated water onto the beach right next to the restoration project signs (left), even though DEC has apparently not approved the drain project. So DEP cannot be unaware of the restoration projects!
This rock near the projects has about a dozen oysters growing on it, as well as many barnacles
This rock near the project has had around 20 oysters settle, grow, and survive on it. Such density of oysters is not found away from the projects
Mussel populations have dramatically expanded in recent years in the project area, and now cover the bottom in many places. They rapidly filter the water and clean it.
We are growing salt marsh lower in the water than it can normally grow, and the dense roots hold back the beach sediment and prevent it being washed away during storm waves. New leaves are now starting to spring up, and in a month there will be bright green salt marsh grass all over the area, unless it is killed by polluted storm runoff
The dense mussel and salt marsh growth has raised the height of the bottom by up to a foot in a few years
The salt marsh and mussels we have restored have raised the beach level by holding sand in place. Where they don’t grow, the sand and mud are washing away. Our goal is to fill the gaps and cover the entire area with growing habitat and fill in the spaces in between the clumps we have grown. The storm drain will flush polluted water right on top of the project, kill them, and wash away the sand. Eventually the sea wall will collapse because of erosion. Green shores are the cheapest and best protection
An old storm drain runs all the way from the shore right at the site of the new DEP storm drain. The new drain should do the same
The old drain goes all the way out into deep water past the low tide mark in order to avoid polluting the shore. Incredibly, DEP does not plan to do the same with the new drain, so they will destroy the habitat!

Electrical Current Jolts Oyster Reef Growth in Texas

Posted on the Earth Island Journal

Technology could be used to restore oyster and coral reef habitats around the world, researchers say

Most of us learn at an early age that electricity and water don’t mix. It is just this combination, however, that has been used for decades to encourage growth of reef habitat around the world. New research from Texas A&M University – Corpus Cristi has built upon existing technology to determine the perfect combination of electrical current, polarity, and voltage to maximize oyster reef growth.

The use of electrical currents can also help reefs survive under stressful climate conditions. Photo by: Durras North
The use of electrical currents can also help reefs survive under stressful climate conditions. Photo by: Durras North

“We knew carbonate accumulation could be stimulated using electrical currents,” explains Dr. Paul Zimba, director of the Center for Coastal Studies at the university. “But there wasn’t enough research done on specific polarity, voltage and electrical current types needed to maximize growth.”

There are two primary components to the technology used by Zimba and graduate student Eliane Oelho. The first is a metal frame, which becomes the base for reef growth. The second component is a low voltage electrical charge, which causes calcium carbonate to precipitate and stick to the metal frame. The calcium carbonate structure provides an ideal environment for reef growth.

The researchers put one foot by four foot sections of rebar in the water and charged them using solar panels. The results were impressive. “In three weeks, we were able to get a one foot by four foot intact reef,” Zimba says. “There were oysters at very high density… and they were growing very rapidly.”

This research could not have come soon enough. “Many of the coastal regions of south Texas, and for that matter many areas of the Gulf of Mexico, [have] declining oyster populations,” Zimba says. “In Texas, a major reason for that was the harvesting of oyster shell for use in road construction that occurred in the 1950s to 1980s. That decimated the population of oysters, and it changed the [Gulf oyster] community from a hard bottom community to one that is a softer mud community.”

Oysters are no longer harvested for road-building purposes, but they face ongoing threats. “Oysters have evolved over millennia to live in brackish type water,” says Mark Dumesnil, upper Golf Coast program manager at The Nature Conservancy in Texas, and “lack of fresh water inflow is an issue.” Unsustainable harvesting and increasing pollution also threaten oyster populations.

Oyster reefs hold both economic and environmental value. “We know that oyster reefs provide a tremendous number of ecosystem services,” Dumesnil says. “Oysters filter a tremendous amount of water. [They] will sequester nitrogen, they will sequester carbon, [and] they will pull a lot of inorganic and organic material out of the water column.” Oyster reefs also attract other marine species and enhance local fishing opportunities.

Zimba and Oelho based their research on a technology called Biorock®, invented invented by Prof. Wolf Hilbertz and further developed by Dr. Thomas Goreau, president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance. Goreau has been using electrical charges to stimulate reef growth for more than three decades, and hopes the new research from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will draw attention to the process.

In New York, for example, Biorock®, technology has been used to grow a thriving community of oysters in toxic waters next to a hazardous waste site. “We get up to 10 times faster growth rate of oysters in length under some conditions in New York City,” Goreau says. “[The growth rate] is also 10 times faster in width and 10 times faster in thickness, so you are dealing with a 1,000 times faster growth rate of oysters.”

The Global Coral Reef Alliance has also used the technology to restore coral reef habitat around the world. One of their restoration projects in Indonesia was recently awarded the United Nations Equator Award for Community-Based Development as well as the Special UN Development Program Award for Marine and Coastal Management.

The use of electrical currents can also help reefs survive under difficult conditions, which makes the technology particularly relevant in the face of global climate change.

“The biological benefits – which is to say, increased health, increased growth, increased energy, and increased resistance to environmental stress – that is a function of the electrical field,” Goreau says. “Because we increase the [corals’] ability to resist stress, we get up to 50 times higher survival rates for corals after extreme high temperature episodes. That is 5,000 percent higher survival. The result is that we are able to keep ecosystems alive where they would die, and grow new ones where there is no natural restoration.”

Zoe Loftus-Farren
Zoe Loftus-Farren is is a contributing editor at Earth Island Journal. She holds a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and and writes about climate change, environmental justice, and food policy. Follow her on Twitter @ZoeLoftusFarren

Algae In The Fish Lagoon And Cayman Turtle Farm Effluent Receiving Area: Recommendations For Monitoring Of Water Quality Improvements

Report to Joseph Ebanks, Cayman Turtle Farm
Algae In The Fish Lagoon And Cayman Turtle Farm Effluent Receiving Area: Recommendations For Monitoring Of Water Quality Improvements
July 11 2008
Thomas J. Goreau, PhD President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

Effluents from the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm have released material high in total suspended solids (TSS), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), bacteria, and nutrients (Nitrogen and Phosphorus) that have degraded water quality in the adjacent coastal zone for forty years. This has resulted in a visible plume of suspended white particulate organic mater and bacteria, and fertilized intensive growth of weedy algae that have smothered the shoreline, bottom, and coral reef habitat. The Turtle Farm is now taking the national lead in treating effluent water in order to improve water quality and restore coral reef and fisheries habitat, after decades in which the impacts were ignored. The planned installation of superior and low cost technologies to treat the effluents should result in dramatic decreases of TSS, BOD, harmful bacteria, and nutrients, so algae overgrowth of the coastal zone should die back, allowing recovery of the reef. The purpose of this report is to discuss the changes now underway and how they can best be documented.

Impacts of the Turtle Farm on the coastal waters were first documented by Dr. Michael Risk, who found large amounts of coliform bacteria, typical of faecal material, in the discharge along with an increase in red coral boring sponges Cliona delitrix, on the bottom, which filter bacteria from water polluted with organic matter (Rose, C.S. & Risk, M.J., 1985. Increase in Cliona delitrix infestation of Montastrea cavernosa heads on an organically polluted portion of the Grand Cayman fringing reef. Marine Ecology 6 (4), 345–363). In 2003, the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment asked the author of this report to look at the site, and videos were taken of the deep Ray Ban outlet reef below the discharge site and along the shallow coastal zone. A small part of that documentation was used in a brief documentary on tourism, water quality, and coral reef health.

These video transects clearly showed that the massive algae blooms were confined to the area receiving the effluents and areas just down-current of them.

In June 2008 the same area was revisited in connection with the Turtle Farm’s Water Quality Improvement Program, and the algae in the breeding ponds and the Fish Lagoon were documented by photographs. Half a dozen other sites along the reef across North Sound, up current of the Turtle Farm were examined for comparison.

View PDF Document…

Hotsarihie (Helen Reef) Project Report

Thomas J. Goreau
Wolf Hilbertz
Sabino Sackarias
Huan Hosei
and the Hatohobei State Marine Park Rangers
September 30 2004

All atoll islands are imminently threatened by global warming and global sea level rise (see the Global Coral Reef Alliance Briefing to the UN Expert Meeting on Ocean Management in Small Island developing States:

This project is a first effort to save the most species-rich atoll in the Pacific threatened by global climate change: SIDS

Hotsarihie (Helen Reef) Atoll has been documented as having more kinds of corals and fishes than any other Pacific island (Maragos, J.E. 1993. Corals of the Palau Southwest Islands. In J. Margos (ed.) Natural and Cultural Resources Survey of the Southwest Palau Islands of Palau. Part 1: Rapid Ecological Assessment of Palau. Report Submitted to the Ministry of Resources and Development, Republic of Palau; Maragos, J.E., A.K. Kepler, R.L. Hunter-Anderson, T.J. Donaldson, S.H. Geermans, K.J. McDermid, N. Idechong, S. Patris, C. Cook, B. Smith, R. Smith, and K.Z. Meier. 1994. Synthesis Report: Rapid Ecological Assessment of Palau: Part 1 June 1992 Natural and Cultural Resources Survey of the Southwest Islands of Palau. Prepared for Bureau of Resources and Development, Republic of Palau. 62 p.; Donaldson, T.J. 1993. Fishes. In J. Margos (ed.) Natural and Cultural Resources Survey of the Southwest Palau Islands of Palau. Part 1: Rapid Ecological Assessment of Palau. Report Submitted to the Ministry of Resources and Development, Republic of Palau; Weng, K. and M. Guilbeaux. 2000. August 1999 Synoptic Ecological Survey of Helen Reef Atoll, Palau. Collaboration of Community Conservation Network, Honolulu, Hawaii and Hatohobei State Government, Koror, Republic of Palau. 9 p).

The name Hotsarihie means Reef of the Giant Clams in the local language, because of the record densities of Giant Clams as well as precious trochus shells the atoll was famous for (Hester, F.J., and E. Jones.1974. A Survey of Giant Clams, Tridacnidae, on Helen Reef, a Western Pacific Atoll. Mar. Fish. Rev. 36: 17-22: Bryan, P.G., and D.B. McConnell. 1976. Status of Giant Clam Stocks (Tridacnidae) on Helen Reef, Palau, Western Caroline Islands, April 1975. Marine Fisheries Review 38: 15-18; Hirschberger, W. 1980. Tridacnid Clam Stocks on Helen Reef, Palau, Western Caroline Islands. Mar. Fish. Rev 42 (2): 8).

Hotsarihie is very remote, around 700 kilometers from Koror, the capital of Palau, and can only be reached by boat. Hotsarihie lies 2 degrees north of the Equator, to the northwest of New Guinea. Although Hotsarihie has no permanent inhabitants, it has been owned and used since ancient times by the people of Hatohobei (Tobi) Island, about 70 kilometers to the west. The unparalleled richness of its marine resources, including large fish, have made it a magnet for poachers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and other countries, who have stripped the reef bare of most of its valuable marine resources. As a result Hatohobei State now stations its Marine Rangers on Hotsarihie to protect it.

Besides its exceptional marine diversity, Hotsarihie is a globally significant turtle nesting site and bird rookery. Fresh tracks of large nesting green turtles were seen every day, and baby turtles were seen emerging from nests almost every night. The Pisonia grandis trees in the forest that covers the island are packed with many thousands of nesting White-headed terns, while dense populations of Crested terns nest directly on the beach sand at the north end of the island. Blue footed boobies nest on the large shipwrecks around the perimeter of the atoll. Large numbers of Frigate birds patrol overhead.

Although the atoll is large, 25 kilometers long and nearly 10 kilometers wide, or around 200 square kilometers, the island is tiny, about 20-40 meters wide and 400 meters long, less than one part in ten thousand of the whole atoll. The island is the uppermost tip of a large sand dune that is migrating towards and falling into the lagoon. The island is only a few inches above the high tide mark. There are clear signs from sand waves and sea-borne detritus on top of the island that waves periodically go right over it. If the island were washed away, a critical part of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone, especially rich in tuna, would be lost.

The entire island itself is moving at about 3-4 meters a year towards the southeast. Several clear lines of evidence corroborate the long-term observations of the Hatohobei people. A boat that was wrecked on the east shore of the island 5 years ago is now located in the center of the island. The concrete base of a water tank built on the east shore of the island 10 years ago is now on the western shore. The Ray Ban outlet remains of the concrete foundations of a building built on the island by Japanese soldiers 70 years ago now lie about 150 meters offshore. Casuarina trees and coconut palms planted on the eastern side of the island fall into the sea on the western side before they can bear.

In 1998 record high ocean temperatures affected the area as the result of continued global warming (T. Goreau, T. McClanahan, R. Hayes, & A. Strong, 2000, Conservation of coral reefs after the 1998 global bleaching event, CONSERVATION BIOLOGY, 14: 5-15). Almost all the corals on the atoll died from heat stroke. Subsequent surveys found very low live coral cover (Helen Reef Resource Management Program, 2003, Helen Reef marine Resources in the Year 2000, 65pp.). Local fishermen noticed a marked decline in fish populations after their coral reef habitat died, confirmed by scientists (Donaldson, T.J. and Myers R.F. 2000. Change in Fish Biodiversity Following a Coral Bleaching Event at Helen Reef, Southwest Palau Islands. Proceedings of the 9th International Coral Reef Symposium. 20).

Background to the Project
Without a living reef, capable of growing and repairing the damage caused by storms and boring organisms, Hotsarihie risks losing the bulk of its protection from erosion, and will be unable to keep pace with global sea level rise. Therefore restoration of marine habitats and protecting the island from washing away are paramount concerns of the Hatohobei State Government’s management plan for Hotsarihie. Their goal is to see the atoll preserved and used for high-value low-impact diving by licensed fee-paying live-aboard dive boats.

At the International Coral reef Symposium in Bali the State Governor of Hatohobei asked Tom Goreau and Wolf Hilbertz of the Global Coral Reef Alliance to come and help restore the damaged reefs and protect the shoreline from erosion using Biorock technology. Proposals were prepared and sent to the major US public and private funding agencies claiming to support “Community-based Coral Reef Restoration”, but these all refused to help. Finally, after four years of trying, the Global Coral Reef Alliance and the Hatohobei State Government were awarded a grant from private sources for a pilot project.

The project was immediately scheduled for the best weather season for working on the exposed eroding side of the island. All needed imported materials were purchased and shipped to Koror, Palau, in advance. Unfortunately the only ship that goes to the southwest islands (including Hatohobei and Hotsarihie), the supply ship Atoll Way, broke down and had to be taken to dry dock in Manila for repairs. These took months longer than planned due to delays in getting the spare engine parts needed. A series of typhoons, unusually strong, unusually Occhiali Ray Ban outlet early in the season, and unusually far south of their normal tracks, caused further delays until near the end of the best period. Due to the short time frame for the project, it was decided to go ahead with the project, since waiting for the following year was not an option.

Due to the remoteness of the location, all needed materials had to be anticipated and bought in Koror before departure. The team conducting the project included the Hatohobei State Government Staff, led by Governor Sabino Sackarias, the Marine Park Rangers assigned to Hotsarihie, the Hatohobei community high school graduates and college students volunteering on their mid-year vacation, and several volunteers from Hatohobei. We were accompanied on the trip by the children of the Hatohobei community in Koror, who were going back to their home island to learn about their ancient cultural traditions. The boat was packed with people, it was really a floating village!

Materials and Methods
As insufficient power to operate a welding machine was available on Hotsarihie, it was necessary to construct all breakwater/reef structures by hand on the island. While a welding machine was available on board Atoll Way, there was only a small deck on which welding could be done and only a small boat to transport any welded structure. Therefore we could only weld the racks to mount the solar panels. These had to big enough and strong enough to hold the solar panels above the highest expected waves, and were constructed from welded steel pipe. The solar panel racks were very heavy and much wider than the boat used to transport them. Transport of the racks to the island for mounting and wiring the solar panels was carried out unavoidably in high waves. This was a very risky operation because if the top-heavy boat had capsized the islands would have lost their only means of transporting people and supplies to the Atoll Way. Fortunately, despite the bad weather, this was done successfully due to the skills of the entire crew.

The challenges on the island were equally large. Due to remoteness and logistic difficulties there had been no way to assess the site beforehand and accurately estimate what would be needed, and many guesses had to be made. The vast size of the shallow sand bank on which the island sits, and its remoteness from coral habitat, except in one extreme tip where a small but rich reef is being buried by rapidly migrating sand, made a coral and fish nursery project impractical with the limited time and materials available. Because of the rapid movement of the island, and the severe erosion that was toppling trees into the sea, we decided on site to focus on protecting the most severely eroding part of the island in order to stabilize it.

Because of the extreme shallowness of the water and the high tidal range, we were forced to mount the solar panel racks in the sea about 80 meters from the island, and to build breakwater/reefs on inter-tidal sand flats on which corals would not be able to survive due to periods of air exposure at low tide. A 150 meter (500 feet) long breakwater was constructed to protect the entire length of the shore along which trees were falling into the sea.

The breakwater consists of two parallel adjacent 150 meter long half cylinders made of steel square mesh, 1/8 inch thick with 6 inch spacing. This material was cut into curved lengths and the entire cylinder made by overlapping adjacent segments and tightening every single node (thousands of them) with steel binding wire crimped tight with pliers. The two half cylinders were then connected along the entire length of the top with similarly attached steel mesh, so that the entire structure, 150 m long, about 3 meters wide, and a bit over 1 meter tall formed a single electrically interconnected unit. This structure was assembled in sections on the beach, and joined on the final site. The breakwater was placed parallel to the shore, approximately 90 meters from the high tide water line, spanning the entire area of worst erosion. The structure was entirely submerged at high tide, and entirely exposed at spring low tide.

The breakwater structure was wired to the cathode terminals of 32 6-Volt solar panels, which were wired in parallel. The anode terminals were connected to 8 titanium anodes coated with rare-earth alloy, placed on the sand on both sides of the structure, and weighted down with rocks. The panels produce 75 watts each in full sunshine, so the total power is 2.4 Kilowatts of power. The solar panels were mounted on two welded steel tube racks placed next to the breakwater on the island side.

This work was carried out under very difficult weather conditions. Only the first and last days were clear and sunny. Throughout most of the work there were very strong winds, almost continual horizontal driving rain, and pounding surf in the area where we were working. When the work was finished we were trapped in the lagoon for many days with almost no food supplies left since the waves were too big to safely navigate the winding passage out of the atoll. Once the winds died down the waves were still too strong to take the children off Hatohobei onto the boat, and then large waves to the north caused the closure of all ports in Palau. We later learned that this was due to Super Typhoon Dianmu, which caused much devastation further north.

Immediate Results and Anticipated Long Term Results
Within minutes of the electrical connections being made to the panels, bubbles began to form all along the base of the structure, indicating that it was working and well inter-connected electrically. Within a day the first growth of white minerals on the framework could be seen. It was clear, just before we had to leave, that the project was working exactly as planned.

As long as there is no interruption to the solar power supply, hard solid limestone rock will grow on all breakwater surfaces at a rate of a few centimeters a year. At first waves will pass unimpeded right through the breakwater. But as it grows more massive and strong the waves will increasingly slow down as they pass through it, dropping out part of their suspended sand, and creating a sand bar under the structure. This will extend parallel to and towards the shore, and will gradually grow and bury the breakwater from the bottom up. As this stabilized sand bar grows, the wave energy, and erosive forces at the shore will decrease. The beach should stop eroding and start growing within about 1- 2 years, as has happened in similar projects in the Maldives: Growing A Beach, 2004

The major threat to this project could not have been anticipated prior to seeing the site. An astonishing number of large tree trunks lay along the shore. Although almost all were found on the eroding westward shore, from their size and species only a small proportion was derived from Hotsarihie trees that fell into the sea from erosion. Most of these trees were of Dipterocarp species not found on the island, which were transported by the west Monsoon from the Philippines, Indonesia, or New Guinea. One giant trunk on the shore looked like Douglas Fir, and contained rounded red granite cobbles trapped in its roots identical to those found on beaches in British Columbia, suggesting that it had come all the way across the Pacific. Almost every day new large tree trunks washed ashore.

Originally this project had been planned for construction during the season while the breakwater was on the lee side of the island, which would have allowed it to gain strength before being exposed on the windward side during the other season. Unfortunately, due to the unanticipated delays the project had to be postponed to the end of the favorable season. However the abnormal weather patterns experienced, which may be linked to global warming, caused unusually large waves and an exceptionally early start to the west monsoon season, which carried large trees towards the breakwater before the structure had gained strength to withstand them. One day after the breakwater was connected, a large log passed right over it, denting a portion of the structure. The minor damage was immediately repaired, by bending and stretching it back into its original shape. However such repairs will require continual vigilance of the rangers during the West Monsoon, which may not always be possible.

Such events are capable of breaking mineral growth layers off the breakwater, and slowing its increase of strength. However as long as the connections are good, damaged areas will preferentially fill in with new growth. While we feel that the solar panel racks are strong enough to withstand the impact of logs, damage to anodes or cables could take place. If these connections are all broken, the project will stop until they are repaired. Once any broken connections are repaired, all the damaged areas will preferentially fill in with new growth.

A remarkable job was accomplished in completing the breakwater on time despite hazardous weather, insufficient time, difficult logistics, and inadequate materials, tools, and equipment. This was due to the exceptional hard work, dedication, and skill at improvising of the entire group. The project is the longest such single Biorock structure in the world. The Hatohobei people can be proud that they are the first low-lying islanders in the world to take serious steps to save their island from global climate change, and have done so under as difficult conditions as can be imagined for such a project. However it must be recognized that this pilot project is only the first step, and it may not be sufficient by itself to save the island without sufficient follow through. The following section lists recommendations to ensure this project has a lasting effect on the scale that is needed.

A long-term solution to the protection and sustainable management of Hotsarihie will require expanding on the foundation already laid in this project, and learning from its limitations. Significantly more time, people, materials, equipment, and funding will be needed.

1) While the existing breakwater/reef covers the entire most severely eroding section, it extends less than half the length of the island. A longer structure may be needed in the long run.

2) The structure was made at the wrong time of year to be strong enough to avoid damage from large logs. Subsequent efforts should be done at the start of the good season.

3) While the structure is strong enough to deal with wave forces, it may not be strong enough to avoid all damage from large logs in its early stages. The breakwater should be made with welded rebar frames to withstand the impact of large logs.

4) This requires more materials, more time, more solar panels and cables, and a portable welding machine on the island, which would require a more powerful electrical generator than the small one that exists there now.

5) Due to lack of time and insufficient materials we were not able to build the coral and fish nurseries planned on both Hotsarihie and Hatohobei. This remains a top priority because of the severe decline of coral, fish, and shellfish populations, not only in Hatohobei State but also in all the Southwest Islands, all States of Palau, and all tropical island nations, and all coral reef countries.

6) There are extremely strong and predictable tidal currents in the only channel through the encircling reef, which becomes very shallow at low tide. Vast amounts of energy could be generated there using Gorlov helical vertical-axis turbines. This could be used to grow a new and much larger island on the large barren reef flat adjacent to it. This could provide a new home for the Hatohobei people that would be much more accessible, more productive, and better located to protect the atoll’s marine resources.

7) Training, research, and development programs are critically needed to give island communities the tools to restore their coral reefs, fisheries, and protect their coastlines on a scale that will allow sustainable management of these resources for future generations. At present none exist.

8) Island Nations need to mobilize international support and funding for meaningful efforts to protect themselves against global climate change. Because of this project, Palau is well placed to lead such international efforts.

We are extremely grateful to the donor of the funds for this project, who has asked to remain anonymous, for kind and invaluable support. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the entire Hatohobei community on Koror, Hatohobei, and Hotsarihie, in particular the State Government Staff, Marine Park Rangers, the students, and the staff of Atoll Way.


1) Image Gallery
2) Palauan Star article
3) Open Democracy article by Caspar Henderson:
A Pacific Odyssey, Caspar Henderson, Open Democracy, 16 September 2004
4) Map
5) Follow up report and photographs by Huan Hosei and the Marine Park Rangers with list of all participants (to be submitted later when available)

Appendix 1

A selection of photographs about the Helen Reef Project:[easyrotator]erc_87_1390563526[/easyrotator]

Appendix 2

Palau Newspaper Article
500 -Ft Long Structures Put Up At Helen Reef
By Agnes  M. Abrau : Horizon News Staff

Last week two experts from the Global Coral Reef Aliance (GCRA) erected a 500-foot long structure on Helen Reef to grow limestone breakwaters to protect the island from erosion and rising sea levels.
Helen Reef, a marine protected area of Hatohobei State, is threatened by disappearance due to global climate change, said Dr. Thomas Goreau, president of GCRA, a small non-profit organization dedicated to growing, protecting, and maintaining the most threatened of all marine ecosystems – coral reefs, founded in 1990.
The structures, which are about 3 and a half feet high, are powered by 32 solar panels, Goreau said. The installation of the structures, one of the largest ever built by the experts, took four days to complete. With the help of 15 people, including the Helen Reef Rangers led by William Andrew, students, and community members, the team, along with Goreau and Hilbertz was able to complete the installation despite bad weather.
The project, requested by Gov. Sabino Sackarias in a meeting with Dr. Goreau and Prof. Hilbertz in Bali, Indonesia, in 2000 during an international coral reef conference, was made possible through a $30,000 funding made by a small private foundation from the United States, Goreau said in an interview.
“Gov Sackarias realized the kind of technology we have and thought of applying it in Palau, particularly on Helen Reef, just to stabilize the island. The beach is very shallow”, Goreau said.
He added that the structures get stronger when they age. This would enable Helen Reef to grow at least an inch a year, enough to protect the island, Goreau said.
He also said that due to the coral beaching phenomenon in 1998 and global warming almost all corals have died including the Southwest Islands. GCRA has successfully applied growing coral reefs – a bigger scale project – using the Biorock process in 15 countries worldwide. Some of them include Maldives, Seychelles, Thailand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Panama, among others.
The two experts employed a method of Biorock process, a technology that has been successfully applied to fish and shellfish mariculture as well as to grow limestone breakwaters to protect islands and coastal areas from erosion.
Sackrias said that this is a pilot project and they are aiming to build an island within the state in the near future so long as funding is available.
“We are aiming to create a new island and install a fish habitat to grow some corals because of the sea level crisis” Sackarais said.
“Restoring the damaged habitat is a government priority. This project may not be possible if not for Gov. Sackarias’ vision, even if it’s small scale, and before it’s too late”  Goreau said.
GCRA is a coalition of volunteer scientists, divers, environmentalists, and other individuals and organizations committed to coral reef preservation founded in 1990. They focus on coral reef restoration, marine diseases, and other issues caused by global climate change, environmental stress, and pollution.

Appendix  3

Open Democracy article by Caspar Henderson: A Pacific Odyssey, Caspar Henderson, Open Democracy, 16 September 2004

Appendix  4

Map Palau : Helen Reef





Maldives Shorelines: Growing A Beach

Thomas J. Goreau
Wolf Hilbertz
A. Azeez A. Hakeem
May 1, 2004

We all treasure our blissful interludes on the shoreline, accompanied by the breeze, and sound of waves lapping at the shore, especially during the magic moments of sunset and sunrise. However, it is all too easy to think of the shoreline as an immutable haven of peace.

In fact, it is a highly dynamic place, constantly dancing to the vagaries of the winds, waves, tides, and now, to global climate change. Consequently, almost all of the world’s beaches are vanishing, not just being inundated but actually retreating, washing away into the sea. The major exceptions are those near rivers engorged with sand and mud from the erosion of deforested watersheds, or where sand carried by longshore currents pile up behind jetties and other man-made obstructions, starving the beaches down-current of sand.

Tropical white sand beaches are an especially tranquil place. What makes tropical beaches so calm and well protected are the coral reefs that grow in front of them, producing the white sand, each grain of which is the skeletal remnant of a living reef organism, while protecting it from waves and currents.

When the corals die, the beach suffers a double blow. First, the supply of new sand decreases as the animals and plants producing them vanish. Secondly, as the dead coral reef ray ban baratas framework crumbles under the relentless attack of waves and boring organisms (as diverse as bacteria, algae, fungi, clams, worms, and fishes), the erosive wave forces on the shoreline dramatically increase. When the corals die, so does the beach, eventually.

All around the world the corals are dying. There are many causes, but the major one is global warming, caused by the fossil fuel addiction of people often on the other side of the world. Global warming has an equally evil twin, global sea level rise, caused by the melting of glaciers and ice caps, and the volumetric expansion of warmer oceans. The result of this double onslaught is that almost all the white coral sand beaches of the world are vanishing with ever increasing speed before our eyes.

The most serious effects are in the world’s lowest lying islands, where the winds may have piled beach sand no more than a few meters high. Whole nations, the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, and Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tokelau, and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, along with thousands of other low islands around the world, could vanish entirely in the coming generation—as could most of Bangladesh.

Shore maintenance and protection is probably the largest single cost of global warming, but no international of government agency takes responsibility for preventing it. Instead, they wait for seawalls, roads, buildings, and airport runways to collapse into the sea after storms, and then may grant one-time emergency aid to desperate governments. The World Bank, the Global Environmental Facility, and the United Nations Development Programme all have told us that coastal protection was not their problem.

Recently we tried to use the web to find out how much the world currently spends on coastal protection, knowing that the current rate of sea level rise, about 2-3 millimeters per year, will increase dramatically in future decades as ice melting accelerates, perhaps with catastrophic surges. All of our searches on “shore protection” yielded nothing but compendia of banks in the Cayman Islands and other places, listed under “offshore asset protection”! The world is asleep at the wheel when it comes to protecting our beaches for our children’s children.

It would be hard to find a more vulnerable place than the Maldives, the lowest lying country in the world, meriting its own entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Every one of the Maldives’ 1200 islands, 200 of them inhabited, are suffering from erosion. On all but one (explained below), one can see coconut and Pandanus trees lying dead in the sea after the sand holding their roots washed away.

The Maldives have been a center of civilization for over 5,000 years. Maldivian shells were traded to the ancient Indus Valley cities like Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, whose characteristic manufactured beads are found in the Maldives. Unique among coral reef islanders, Maldivians do not eat reef fish. They specialize in hand line fishing of tuna in deep blue offshore waters, and they have maintained these resources sustainably for millennia, until foreign fleets with drift nets and long lines with multiple hooks began decimating their tuna stocks.

Able to produce nothing but tuna and coconuts, the Maldivians escaped direct colonial rule, becoming a remote British protectorate “managed” from India under home rule. The Maldivians were poor subsistence fishermen until recent decades, when an airstrip on islands joined by dredging brought in floods of Gafas Ray Ban Baratas European tourists to enjoy the perfect white sand beaches and the best coral reefs in the Indian Ocean. Now their unexpected prosperity is suddenly imperiled by global climate change.

Maldivian homes were traditionally built from corals, cemented by quicklime made by burning corals in kilns fired by coconut wood. When there was an abundance of corals and few people, the impacts on the reef were minor. Now, almost all the reefs around Male, the capital island, which has 80,000 people on two square kilometers, have been mined bare of corals for construction. In 1987 and 1991 the island flooded, because there were no reefs to protect it from storm waves. The groundwater was contaminated with salt.

Following this disaster, the Japanese Government gave the Maldives aid to build sea defenses around Male to prevent flooding. Now there is hardly any natural shoreline left, and a jagged wall of giant concrete tetrapods, cast and shipped from Japan, surrounds the island. There is hardly a sadder shoreline than these kilometers of lifeless concrete, a sterile linear barrage. Now, there are no more shoreline coconuts or pandanus trees to fall into the sea. The concrete wall cost around US$ 13 Million per kilometer, or &13,000 for each meter! This foreign aid was absorbed by the capital island, and did not reach the other 199 inhabited islands or tourist resort islands. So these have simply mined the nearest reefs and piled the dead corals into walls around the islands. These walls are eventually destroyed by storms, and then need to be rebuilt. The wealthiest resorts have used steel wire cages, or gabions to enclose the dead coral. These rust and fall apart, with the same result, but a few years later

In 1998, the hottest year in history so far, between 95% and 99% of the corals in the Maldives died from heat stroke. There has been some slight recovery since, but it will take decades to regain what was lost, and the Global Coral Reef Alliance’s long-term satellite records of sea surface temperature increase in the Maldives suggest that such events will soon become annual. So now there are few corals and many people, and the old strategies can no longer work, even if the sea level was not rising.

Starting in 1996, we began growing coral reefs in the Maldives, using the new Biorock technology. This uses very low and safe direct electrical currents, often provided by solar panels or other sustainable energy sources, to grow sold limestone structures in the sea and greatly speed up coral growth and survival. On the Biorock reefs, the survival of corals in 1998 was from 16 to 50 TIMES higher than on the surrounding reefs.

The corals we were growing were simply healthier, and had more energy to resist environmental stress. As a result our reefs are the only ones left in the Maldives that are up to 100% covered by living corals, and they have maintained large populations of fishes that have virtually vanished from nearby reefs because they will only live in live corals, and reject the dead variety. The high densities of live rapidly growing corals and dense swarms of brightly coloured fish have made them an immense attraction to tourists.

However, there is a much more serious purpose to these projects than for ecotourism. By keeping corals alive under lethal conditions and restoring coral reefs where they cannot recover naturally, we aim to restore the reef and its fisheries, to keep ecosystems from going extinct from global warming, and to protect the shoreline from vanishing under the waves.

One of our major goals is to develop a sustainable technology that can keep the Maldives and other such islands from disappearing. For this reason we started growing a reef in front of a severely eroded beach on the tourist resort island of Ihuru, in North Male Atoll, only 15 minutes from the capital, Male by speedboat. The project is 45 meters long (140 feet), about 4-8 meters wide, and 1.5 meters high. It was constructed of welded construction steel rods at a cost of a few percent of a concrete or rock wall. This structure was called the Necklace, because it was intended to be the first stage in restoring the ring reef around the entire island and protecting its lovely beaches without concrete, dead coral walls, or plastic mesh bags pumped full of sand, which invariably disintegrate, rip, and leave plastic debris littering the sand..

The results have been astonishing. When it was built the structure lay amid the best snorkeling reef in any tourist island in the Maldives, but in 1998, almost all the surrounding reef corals died when water temperatures reached up to 34 degrees C. In contrast, most corals on the Necklace survived. The Necklace reef has become a haven for fish, like Giant Moray eels, sweetlips, triggerfish, and others now rarely seen on the dead reef. Fish line up patiently to be groomed by cleaner fish and shrimps, making it an ideal place to see many kinds of fishes behaving without aggression to each other.

The effect on the beach has been even more incredible. As the limestone rock reef and the corals on it grow more massive, the waves that once surged right through it to batter the beach now slow down as they pass through, as the friction of the growing surface constantly increases. As a result sand once held in suspension is falling out, burying the structure from the bottom up.

In the last two years, the once-eroding beach has grown by 15 meters, and the sand is now forming a sandbar pointing right to the structure. Unfortunately, the hotel whose beach is being protected regards the reef more as a tourist attraction than as shore protection, and so has not extended it around the island as intended. Instead, they spend a fortune pumping sand to maintain their beaches from vanishing. Instead of applying this technology, developed in the Maldives to save the entire country from drowning, to every island, the example is dismissed as a mere gimmick to trap tourists with bright corals and fish. We can only hope that it is applied on the scale needed before it is too late. Then future generations of Maldvians and tourists will continue to enjoy their idyllic moments of peace on the shoreline while this unique country grows its way out of the very real threats of global warming and sea level rise.

Image gallery:

For the projects described in this article, Tom Goreau, President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, a non-profit organization for protection and management of coral reefs, and Wolf Hilbertz, President of Sun & Sea, a non profit organization for developing sustainable construction technology using materials grown from sea water, received the Theodore M. Sperry Award, the top award for “Innovators and pioneers in restoration”, from the Society for Ecological Restoration, and Azeez Hakeem received the Maldives Environment Prize. These projects, and similar ones in over a dozen countries around the world that have won the SKAL Award for best Underwater Tourism Project in the World, and the KONAS Award for best Community-Based Coastal Zone Management Project in Indonesia, have all been done without any support from governments or international funding agencies.

For more information on this project, see: Maldives Nurses its Coral Reefs Back to Life Reuters, Alan Wheatley, May 2, 2004