Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Scuba Divers Repair Damaged Reef off Hawaii

The reef was damaged when the Navy cruiser USS Port Royal ran aground in last month off Honolulu International Airport's reef runway.

The state plans to submit a bill, called an admiralty claim, to the Navy for reimbursement of the cost to repair and clean up the area, said Deborah Ward, state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman. Ward said she did not have an estimate of the costs.

On another front, the Navy Times reported that it might cost tens of millions of dollars to repair the Port Royal, according to an internal Navy report detailing damage to the $1 billion ship.

Damage to the ship includes both drive shafts and support struts, instruments on the ship's underside, hatches on the forward and aft vertical launch cells, antennae and the wastewater and seawater ballast systems, which are clogged with sand and coral from the reef.

The ship, which had just come out of drydock two months ago after routine maintenance, will likely require months to repair the damage caused by the grounding and 3 1/2 days of rolling in the surf before it was pushed out to deeper water by tugboats.


Three teams of divers have been at the site of the grounding since Feb. 12, Ward said, surveying, photographing and re-attaching the live coral heads.

"It's been complicated by the wave action from the wind and the current," Ward said. "The Navy divers are assisting us with the gluing and removal of the chunks of coral out to deeper water."

But it will take another week or more for divers to survey the site and to assess the full extent of the scarring to the reef, she said.

In some instances, divers are re-attaching the coral with a quick-setting cement and hauling the larger pieces to deep water so they aren't tumbled by waves, causing further damage to the reef, Ward said.

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