[Coral-List] Urgent: reef mining has started on Majuro

Dean Jacobson atolldino at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 30 21:18:26 EDT 2012

This morning I visited the reservoir site near the Majuro
airport (Marshall Islands) and saw that PII (Pacific International Inc.) has
flagrantly started to dredge near-shore coral using their excavators.  The
giant Lima crawler crane, which will be able to reach nearly all the fringing
reef, has already been moved to the site, and will begin large scale
operation very soon.  Photos will  also be available
very soon on Flickr, just google “new reservoir dredging” (also see the Youtube video of the same name; my channel is "atolldino").  I walked across the road to take pictures, staying
off the PII “property”, and the PII foreman angrily approached me, put his
hands on my shoulders and tried to push me away.  I immediately demanded that he take his hands
off of me… he then proceeded to call the police on his cell phone, asking that
they arrest me.  This is normal behavior…PII
operates (one can say “rules”) by fear and intimidation.  Very few people on the island dare to
publically support my campaign to save this (or any other) reef.
This is happening despite discussions lasting over a year
with an apparently sympathetic RMI EPA that some of this rich coral reef should
be rescued, relocated and planted either elsewhere or on reef balls on site
(after the dredging has ended).  I was told that my ideas would guide the development of the mitigation plan  (Coral that should be rescued include large branching forms of Acropora, and perhaps the massive Porites as well, but not the dominant Porites rus.)  I wanted to take advantage of local
expertise, so I encouraged the manager of a local ornamental clam and coral
farm, Provin Crump, to offer technical assistance.  He wrote a good short description of coral
fragmentation and mounting on narrow stubs, with no details such as how much
coral would be saved, how long it would take, how many divers would be
required, where the rescued coral would be held, how they would be stabilized
prior to fragmentation (i.e. crates, metal tables or suspended monofilament supports), how many reef balls
would be constructed and deployed and what size… he only proposed a technique,
not a mitigation plan, no schedule, no bench marks, no budget.  That was not his intention, he was not asked
to create a plan.  (BTW, this technique
is not immediately appropriate for reef balls, unless narrow holes are drilled
into the concrete).  This summer PII submitted an EMP
(environmental management plan) that was supposed to include the required
mitigations, including a plan to rescue and relocate coral.  Instead they just cut and pasted Provin’s
technique summary, and said nothing about the details listed above. The
proposed no plan.  Also, none of my
recommendations (surprise, surprise) were included. PII did include reef balls
in one of their post-dredging diagrams, but they showed them as elliptical egg-shaped
structures in side view… (three of these were shown).  Obviously, PII did not even both to look up
reef balls on Google!  
The EPA board of
directors, which includes the no. 2 guy from PII, Biten Lankwi, rubber-stamp approved this “plan”
that is not a plan, and gave PII a green light in the form of an Earth moving
permit.  I publically complained, listing
the details (shown above) that should have been included (and to give the
mitigation teeth and incentive, the coral rescue should have been complete
before any earth moving and dredging started). In response, EPA published a
letter in the paper saying they had done everything correct and proper; they
refused to address any of my specific concerns.  
When I go to EPA to complain that, just like the original
plan to mine the spectacular “picnic area” reef, there has been no EIA, no
public hearing, no underwater reef survey (or even visit) I am repeatedly told,
by both EPA and Port Authority (PA) “yes, there was a public hearing”.  This 2011 hearing was held *before* the
current coral reef dredge plan was even made!   I am asked “why didn’t you complain at the
hearing?” when there was no indication that PII planned to mine coral, only
intertidal reef flat where no coral is found.  When, today, I protested the dredging, at both PA and EPA, I am asked
each time “didn’t you read the EMP?”.  I don’t
know what they mean,  since the EMP has no plan (and nothing to restrict what PII does),  Further, Lowell Alik of EPA keeps repeating “our people will
monitor the situation” which means nothing.  Yes, they will
go out and watch all the reef be mined without intervening.  This is not just a case of the emperor has no
clothes, this is an outrageously dishonest, disingenuous and fraudulent
process.  Such things as EIAs and EMPs
are just token regulatory pieces of paper, having no meaning or power, just
boxes to tick so that PII can do whatever it wants, and then the govt can claim that they were transparent and followed their regulatory process correctly.  Nauseating. 
This coral dredging should be stopped immediately. 
Now, recall that this coral dredging is only occurring because
FAA is paying PII to make it happen (for the “RSA” project, the filling in of
part of the lagoon at the west end of the runway, not to make the runway
longer, but to relocate a road that does not need to be relocated).  It is outrageous that FAA is allowed to get
away with this.  Thankfully, and
hopefully, the Coral Reef Task Force has recently discussed this sordid circus,
in American Samoa, has asked that FAA and State Dept try to harmonize their
goals with those of US EPA, NOAA and Fish and Wildlife (I believe through a
White House office).  I thank those members of the Task Force who have long worked to stop this madness.
I am not allowed to post a petition on this list (though
others have done so recently), but you can email me for the link.  Please, request the link! 6000 more signatures
would make a big difference, I will answer each one.  (I attempted to publicize this petition at
Cairns, and requested on day one that a message board be installed, but sadly no
new signatures appeared on my petition after Cairns).  
A big question is: after this reef is destroyed, which will
be the next one?  PII has been mining
coral reefs from shore on Majuro for many years.  It
is time that the US help the RMI get off this self-destructive addiction, co-dependently funded by the US for a series
of FAA projects, of mining coral when they have a giant lagoon filled with
unlimited quantities of both fine fill and aggregate, just waiting to be
responsibly exploited.  If PII won't do this, some one else will!  It is actually a catch-22: FAA demands such a small budget that deeper lagoon dredging is considered unaffordable.  Obviously, the considerable value of a living coral reef is being completely ignored, "externalized" to the least affluent Marshallese fishermen who are losing their fish without compensation.
Please, please, protest this nonsense to FAA:  ron.v.simpson at faa.gov
PS: PII and members of the government are again trying to get me deported.  This angry over-reation simply because I published an open letter asking that the EMP include a plan.  Come on guys, grow up!

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