[Coral-List] Re: Reef Ball Costs? and Where does Reef Ball go from here?

Todd Barber reefball at reefball.com
Mon Mar 1 08:38:00 EST 2004

Hi Gregor,

Quite a few questions, I will try to answer them all....

The funding for this project is a bit complex since there are really many projects grouped into one.  Here are the major projects and estimated costs:

The Coral Propagation and Coral Rescue Projects were funded by a non-restricted donation from R. Allen Stanford to the Reef Ball Foundation, Inc. (A publicly supported 501 (c) 3 non-profit charity) of $250,000.  This money was used to organize the project and resulted in over 275 man days of expert volunteer labor from our Worldwide Coral Propagation Teams which included bring in a wide range of experts from over 15 countries.  The Reef Ball Foundation also supplied additional paid experts to supervise the coral propagation methods, to train volunteers in the latest coral techniques, and to oversee the coral rescue efforts.  Additionally, the Reef Ball Foundation photo documented the whole process taking more than 10 gigabytes of digital photos for both monitoring and record keeping.  Monitoring efforts included species diversity counts for fish, corals, inverts and algae.

The Mangrove Planting Project is on-going in scope and until the total number of required mangroves is finalized, an exact budget has not been created.  However, the Red Mangroves are being purchased from Nova Southeastern University (host of the National Coral Reef Institute) at slightly higher than market rates because NOVA is taking the transportation risk of the live plants.  So far, about $20,000 worth of seedlings have been purchased (4200 plants). (Because NOVA is a private university, the funds will be used to support education and a doctorial student's invertebrate study on the Reef Ball project in Antigua).  The Reef Ball Foundation has been providing consultants to supervise the care of the mangroves and to recommend the best locations from an environmental/biological perspective.  The Foundation is also monitoring Blue Stripped Grunt populations on the restored reef and on natural reefs in the area both before and after the mangroves are established as a benchmark of the biological success of the project.

The Construction Project (building and deploying of about 3,500+ Reef Balls) was done by the Stanford Development Company locally on Antigua using local labor.  Stanford purchased Reef Ball molds from the Reef Ball Foundation for use in this project and for planned future developments in the Caribbean.  Reef Ball Authorized Contractors such as Reef Innovations, Inc. supplied trainers and supervisors for the construction phase for quality control purposes and charged daily fees.  This was probably the most expensive phase of the project due to the large number and sizes of prefabricated units.  I estimate that approximately 3000 yards of concrete were needed.  50 construction workers were used for 30 days, on 3 shifts 24 hours per day for a month on the first phase.  The second phase (in progress as we speak) will employ another 24 workers 1 shift per day for two weeks.  2 barges and one tug was also used for 30 days on the first phase and they will be used again for about the same amount of time for the 2nd phase.  Although I do not have direct knowledge of the costs Stanford Development Company incurred in this effort, I would estimate it to be in the $1,000,000-1,500,000 dollar range.  Stanford Development Company projects are typically a bit more expensive than traditional construction methods because Stanford Development Company has very high quality control standards and whenever they are presented with construction options they elect for the best.

In addition to survey crews provided by Stanford Development Company and internal engineers, the Submerged Breakwater and Beach Protection Project employed experts from the Dr. Alfredo Torruella of the Caribbean Oceanography Group, Dr. Greg Morris from Morris and Associates, and Dr. Lee Harris who is a consultant that also teaches at Florida Institute of Technology.  The engineering effort was extensive and again without direct knowledge of the costs engineering fees are typically in the range of 10-20% of construction costs.  

There are numerous additional efforts being funded either by Stanford Development Group, Reef Ball Foundation, or purely by volunteers.  Dr. Judith Goblin did an initial species inventory study of Maiden Island before Reef Balls were introduced.  The local Optimist Club provided labor to seed Reef Ball with sea urchins to increase natural coral settlement.  There are a wide range of monitoring and scientific studies being planned.  There are efforts by the Reef Ball Foundation and R. Allen Stanford to designate the area as a marine protected reserve.  Stanford has opened the door for researchers and students to study the project so there are many proposals for additional research such as the interaction between mangroves and reef systems which we hope will find outside funding sources.

As far as the "for profit" Reef Ball Development Group, Ltd. this is a company that has the mission to develop the design for specific artificial reef uses and to continually increase the knowledge and technology for the application of Reef Balls.  This company is all volunteer and does not pay salaries or bonuses and has not made any profit in it's ten years of existence.  Would be profits are used to continually develop artificial reef technologies or to support the Reef Ball Foundation.  Currently, the major focus of the Reef Ball Development Group, Ltd. is to develop and advance the use of Reef Balls as submerged breakwaters to protect beaches from erosion. In the Stanford Project, the Reef Ball Development Group, Ltd. provided a project management role helping to organize all the various companies, consultants, contractors, etc.

Sorry that explaining the budget had to be so detailed, but the effort was complex and vast.

Now, in terms of A/Rs pulling funding away from other conservation efforts I believe politicians will always make statements that may be polarizing, however, A/Rs are just one tool available to conservation efforts worldwide in our fight to save our reefs.  Although I agree that many artificial reefs...particularly waste disposal programs calling themselves artificial reef programs are rarely useful in terms of reef conservation and often a source of problems, but properly designed artificial reefs, especially those that incorporate coral propagation, can and should be a part of conservation options.

And although I agree that if we cut down a redwood forest and replaced it with concrete that we would all scream foul....however, if we replanted redwood trees where a forest was lost, perhaps in the long run the results might be better.  With Reef Balls, the concrete is only the substrate for real living corals to grow on...not much different than how corals naturally form on rock outcroppings.  The complexity of Reef Balls aids in a faster recovery of many reef systems that have lost coral complexity which is one of the major reasons hard corals are so ecologically important (i.e. they provide a complex habitat for millions of additional life forms).  

Now, to combine my response from Capt. Cordell in this same message...

 I agree wholeheartly that we must address global issues to solve our problems.  But I have always stuck to the saying "Think Globally, Act Locally"
The truth is, we need both.  Unfortunately, the need for Reef Balls is increasing because we are still destroying our reefs at alarming rates.  The Reef Ball Foundation's primary mission statement includes that basic premise that it is better to protect a natural reef than to have to rebuilt one.  A significant amount of our efforts are educational to protect natural reefs.  Even our construction projects are often used as a basis to protect reefs.  For example, we built specific pinnacle reefs on Antigua to create a fish spawn which could be documented to aid the designation of a much wider area, that includes natural reefs, than just the restored reef as a marine reserve.

I hope this helps everyone to better understand the Reef Ball Foundation's mission.

-Todd Barber
Chairman, Reef Ball Foundation, Inc.  

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Gregor Hodgson" <gregorh at ucla.edu>
To: "Todd Barber" <reefball at reefball.com>; "Jessica Tallman" <mailjtall at yahoo.com>; <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Sent: Sunday, February 29, 2004 9:23 PM
Subject: Reef Ball Costs?

> Some readers might be interested to know how much this artifical reef cost,
> who paid for it, and how the funds were allocated. Also of interest would be
> the percentage of Antigua reefs that were "restored." Some readers may also
> like to learn more about the relationship between the Reef Ball Development
> Group Ltd., a for-profit company www.reefball.com and Reef Ball foundation
> www.reefball.org.
> Readers who have personally viewed a living coral reef or even photos,
> should carefully consider the aesthetics of this "spectacular success" by
> examining especially the second picture in the "Total Reef Restoration Page"
> at http://www.reefball.com/map/antiguascience/antiguapressrelease.htm Note
> that this "success" may be due to "special marine friendly formulations
> needed to create a perfect biological reef." (Quotes from Reef Ball.com)
> According to Reef Ball.com, "Over 500,000 Reef Balls have been deployed in
> over 3,500 projects worldwide making Reef Balls the most widely used
> designed artificial reef in the world. Reef Balls are used primarily to
> restore ailing coral reefs and to create new sites for scuba diving or
> fishing and for many other uses such as beach protection, mitigation, fresh
> water, education, and for creating all types of aquatic reef systems."
> Artificial reefs are a wonderful tool when used in the appropriate location
> and for the appropriate goal. I am sure that when e.g. beach protection or
> fish habitat are the goals, Reef Balls do a wonderful job.
> The reason I am trying to raise awareness about this issue is that coral
> reef conservation funding is scarce. Politicians would like a quick fix,
> hence ARs are attractive. Sometimes AR construction may divert funding away
> from more fundamental conservation activities that would allow reefs to
> recover naturally. Some politicians will actually cut conservation funding
> following AR construction because they believe, "It doesn't matter if we
> damage our reefs, we can always build more." This is a real quote from a
> politician in the Philippines.
> Aesthetics are an issue. If a forest of redwood trees is cut down and
> replaced with concrete structures, how would we feel? I hope that we can do
> better than this with reef rehab.
> Gregor Hodgson, PhD
> Executive Director, Reef Check
> Professor (visiting)
> Institute of the Environment
> 1362 Hershey Hall Box 951496
> University of California at Los Angeles
> Los Angeles, CA 90095-1496
> Tel: 310-794-4985 Fax: 310-825-0758
> www.ReefCheck.org

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