State investigates after dredging work in Honolulu Harbor damages huge area of coral

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 4:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is investigating after recent dredging operations caused what Land and Natural Resources officials described as “large and significant” damage to coral colonies near the entrance to Honolulu Harbor.

The contractor at the center of the investigation is Healy Tibbets Corp.

The state said Healy Tibbets was contracted by the US Army Corps of Engineers for recent dredging work and allegedly dragged the dredging platform’s anchor and cable across coral colonies.

The contractor is also accused of depositing dredging materials on coral.

In a statement, Healy Tibbets Corp. vice President Emmett Kinney said:

“Healy Tibbitts understands the significance of Hawaii’s precious natural resources, and we are committed to doing everything we can to take immediate restorative action and mitigate further damage to the coral reef. To that end, we have retained the help of leading marine research experts and scientists from Marine Research Consultants, Inc. and Sea Engineering, Inc. to rapidly commence restoration efforts.”

US Fish and Wildlife divers discovered the damage May 4 while conducting water quality monitoring. They said the damage stretches for at least 17,500 square yards.

“This is a large and significant damage event,” said state Division of Aquatic Resources Administrator Brian Neilson. “The last few days our dive teams have been in the water doing further assessments and documenting the scope of the damage.”

The state plans to send more divers out Saturday to re-attach some broken corals if possible.

State conservationists said the damaged coral includes a colony believed to be several hundred years old. A 2019 photo showed a healthy colony. Photos from last week appear to show the colony heavily damaged. Officials hope to save some portions of the colony with emergency work.

This story will be updated.

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