[Coral-List] The Majuro airport development coral mining saga

Rob Hilliard, imco rhilliard at imco.com.au
Thu Mar 20 02:07:19 EDT 2014


Thanks for your insider take on the frequently illogical nature of U.S. 
systems.   The closest I've ever been to the Marshalls were flash visits 
to Pulau, Guam, Yap and Truck, but I've had the good fortune to work on 
various maritime and coastal development EIA/EMP/MPs and 
capacity-building projects on small island states and territories across 
the Indian Ocean (from Bali to the Maldives to Mauritius, including the 
external Ozzie territories of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands).  
So i appreciate how most communities and stakeholders on atolls and 
small islands find it difficult to grasp the significance and potential 
long-term resource value of what's directly in their backyard - which 
since time immemorial is viewed as the local paddock for gathering handy 
building materials as well as the fresh seafood larder.   It's also the 
norm for the directors of local companies to seize every opportunity to 
make the biggest buck from any O-AID coming to an islet near them.   And 
a colleague who's lived and worked at Majuro in times gone by told me 
how he found Dean's posts to be completely, utterly unsurprising!  I 
would guess that, having been used/abused as an H-bomb test site, most 
elders in the Marshalls wouldn't give a damn about the fate of one 
rather nice but essentially inconsequential small patch of reef beside 
their noisy, dusty airport....

But just because a receiving community may be totally relaxed about some 
local destruction for the sake of an improved amenity (and opportunity 
to make a quick buck), this should not encourage or licence the funding 
agency to take a similar laissez-faire approach - the opportunities to 
inform, to lead by example, to show the schoolkids how the developed the 
world takes care of its backyard and local resources, are all missed.

If the FAA gets away with it, it'll be just another case of the U.S. not 
doing what it preaches or cajoles others to do, and i agree with other 
coral-listers who've pointed to Congress for much of the blame.   It 
seems the majority in this dysfunctional house like the 1920s way of 
doing things - even more so if the matter is perceived as some trivial 
issue beyond the continental states.   And all wrapped up inside 
Congress's woeful disdain, reluctance or just plain laggardness for 
anything 'UN' - including their suspicion of the raft of useful, 
sensible international conventions and treaties that the US never seems 
prepared to sign onto, unless or until Congress is satisfied there'll be 
someimmediate, direct advantage - economic, political or soft power/hard 

I think the review by Tarnoff & Lawson ("Foreign Aid: An Introduction to 
U.S. Programs and Policy" [2011]) sums up it well;  in my search through 
this document i could find no words or policies promoting improved 
natural resource management, ecosystem servicing, endangered wildlife 
protection etc.   The first paragraph of its exec summary makes a 
concise example:

"Foreign assistance is a fundamental component of the international 
affairs budget and is viewed by many as an essential instrument of U.S. 
foreign policy.  Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, 
foreign aid has increasingly been associated with national security 
policy. U.S. foreign
aid policy has developed around three primary rationales: national 
security, commercial interests, and humanitarian concerns. These broad 
rationales are the basis for the myriad objectives of U.S. assistance, 
including promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, improving governance,
expanding access to health care and education, promoting stability in 
conflictive regions, promoting human rights, strengthening allies, and 
curbing illicit drug production and trafficking."      The full doc is a 
free downloadable at http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R40213.pdf

I guess the federal govt's general lack of interest in things 
environmental helps explain why there are so many private foundations 
and NGOs in North America that do pay attention. However won't much of 
their overseas aid work continue to get undermined if US govt agencies 
such as the FAA are not prompted to mend their ways?





Robert Hilliard PhDPg.Dip  (EMS)

InterMarine Consulting Pty Ltd

19 Burton Road,Darlington

Western Australia  6070

Mob:    +61 427 855 485

Office: +61 8 6394 0606

Fax:     +61 8 9255 4668

*rhilliard at imco.com.au  <mailto:rhilliard at imco.com.au>*

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To download the latest_Marine Pest Vessel Management Guidelines_  of the WA Department of Fisheries (_24^th    January 2014_), go to:


On 20-Mar-14 4:33 AM, Dennis Hubbard wrote:
> Rob:
> You may not realize being, as you put it, how illogical the US system 
> can be. Also, being perhaps an"island outsider, you also lack the 
> experience of how bizarre things can happen in these environments.For 
> the last three decades, the US Virgin Islands' books have been 
> declared "inauditable". This is not to say that there are identifiable 
> misdoings (although I am convinced theyere are", the books couldn't be 
> audited based on the information provided. Logic would say thatthe US 
> government delay the next check until the US Virgin Islands deliver 
> "auditable" books. Add to this the fact that there is an environmental 
> consultant who has been referred to as the "biostitute" who knowingly 
> takes the checks and fills in the details later (I will not reveal 
> their identity).Yet, this person is the most sought after consultant 
> because the reports look good and the permits come in. Again, the 
> solution is painfully obvious.... but if there is anything more 
> obvious, it is that this will not change. All the pirates have not 
> left the Caribbean.
> We can argue about the realities of these situations, but the fact is 
> that this is not going to happen. Add to this the fact that the 
> Marshall Islands are not part of the US and the path forward becomes 
> even more intractable. This is a bizarre relationship that goes back 
> to WWII. I have been trying to better understand how it works and why 
> the EPA and FAA are involved but are apparently complicit. The bottom 
> line is that there is corruption involved and that we won't be able to 
> do anything about it directly. At the best, we can put enough pressure 
> on through US channels to make it sufficiently uncomfortable for 
> people who might be in a position to make it uncomfortable for the 
> involved parties on Majuro - hence my suggestion. We may not 
> ultimately be able to mount a response that rises to a level 
> appropriate to all of Dean's efforst, but I'd like to at least not 
> spend a lot of time doing thaings that just make me feel "good".
> Dennis
> On Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 7:28 AM, Rob Hilliard, imco 
> <rhilliard at imco.com.au <mailto:rhilliard at imco.com.au>> wrote:
>     I agree with Charles Delbeek's comment about the length of time the
>     Majuro reef issue has rolled on.  As a U.S. 'outsider' on the
>     coral-list, I've been fascinated how little positive or actionable
>     response Dean Jacobson has been able to elicit from US-based
>     coral-listers, since his first posts for advice 3 years ago, regarding
>     the fate of this reef due to the FAA-funded airport runway extension.
>     Nor I have seen any post indicating that procedural/policy changes
>     have
>     been put in place or updated to prevent a potential re-ocurrence....
>     The saga seems to have run for 3 years without apparently any clear
>     public response from FAA or other US agencies charged with overseeing
>     US-funded overseas project aid.  Below is copy of what I put on the
>     Coral-List in reply to Dean's initial calls for advice & suggestions -
>     this was back in May 2011...!
>     "Date: Thu, 19 May 2011 02:40:21 +0800
>     From: <rhilliard at imco.com.au <mailto:rhilliard at imco.com.au>>
>     Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Selection of mining sites for the Majuro
>     airport developments
>     To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>     <mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>     -ID: <4DD41295.7080800 at imco.com.au
>     <mailto:4DD41295.7080800 at imco.com.au>>
>     If Dean Jacobsen's information re. his news and appeal about the
>     Majuro
>     airport development is complete and correct, then I'd suspect the FAA
>     might be exposed to one or two court injunction mechanism/s - possibly
>     relatively rapid - and taken on the basis of the need to halt it for
>     review a US funding agreement/development aid project that was the
>     subject of an apparently markedly deficient EIA approval process, and
>     that otherwise is now set to destroy a reef resource of high
>     biodiversity significance in the region near Majuro.
>      From Dean's information, it appears the EIA process was deficient and
>     notably out of step with basic scoping concepts used by development
>     banks and agencies around the world, in line with a range of
>     well-known
>     policies such as the Equator Principles etc. If selection of
>     mining site
>     options was not part of the project's EIA and approval process, it
>     also
>     raises the question as to what level of steps were taken to check the
>     chance and scale of possible 'knock-on' erosion/ sedimentation effects
>     (as a result of storm and/or routine wave climate and currents
>     interacting with the altered seafloor topography, slope gradient and
>     lost hard substrate integrity).   However I find it difficult to
>     imagine
>     that a US funding body would ignore such questions or steps.  It seems
>     much may depend on what effort the FAA took to ensure that
>     selection of
>     the mining site/s received adequate attention, review and stakeholder
>     input - at levels relevant to the respective policies and regulatory
>     requirements of the RMI and the US, including international treaty
>     obligations such as the CBD and well-established international funding
>     procedures."
>     _________________________
>     Robert Hilliard PhDPg.Dip  (EMS)
>     InterMarine Consulting Pty Ltd
>     19 Burton Road,Darlington
>     Western Australia  6070
>     Mob: +61 427 855 485 <tel:%2B61%20427%20855%20485>
>     Office: +61 8 6394 0606 <tel:%2B61%208%206394%200606>
>     Fax: +61 8 9255 4668 <tel:%2B61%208%209255%204668>
>     *rhilliard at imco.com.au <mailto:rhilliard at imco.com.au>
>      <mailto:rhilliard at imco.com.au <mailto:rhilliard at imco.com.au>>*
>     *  *
>     *P**lease consider our environment before printing this e-mail*
>     To download the latest_Marine Pest Vessel Management Guidelines_
>      of the Western Australian Department of Fisheries (_24^th  
>      January 2014_), go to:
>     http://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/biosecurity/introduced_marine_pests_management_guidelines.pdf
>     On 19-Mar-14 12:00 AM, coral-list-request at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>     <mailto:coral-list-request at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:
>     > Send Coral-List mailing list submissions to
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>     > make your point; avoid re-sending the entire Digest back to the
>     list.
>     >
>     >
>     > Today's Topics:
>     >
>     >     1. The Saga of Dean Jacobson and Majuro Coral Mining (Jim
>     >        Hendee) (Steve Mussman)
>     >     2. Re: The Saga of Dean Jacobson and Majuro Coral Mining  (Jim
>     >        Hendee) (Delbeek, Charles)
>     >     3. Re: Impact of nutrient enrichment on coral reefs
>     >        (Delbeek, Charles)
>     >     4. Registration for the 3rd International Marine  Conservation
>     >        Congress is Now Open (John A. Cigliano)
>     >
>     >
>     >
>     ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>     >
>     > Message: 1
>     > Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2014 14:41:40 -0400 (GMT-04:00)
>     > From: Steve Mussman<sealab at earthlink.net
>     <mailto:sealab at earthlink.net>>
>     > Subject: [Coral-List] The Saga of Dean Jacobson and Majuro Coral
>     >       Mining (Jim     Hendee)
>     > To:"coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>     <mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>"
>      <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>     <mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>>
>     > Message-ID:
>     >      
>     <11405152.1395081700974.JavaMail.root at elwamui-muscovy.atl.sa.earthlink.net
>     <mailto:11405152.1395081700974.JavaMail.root at elwamui-muscovy.atl.sa.earthlink.net>>
>     >
>     > Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8"
>     >
>     >
>     >     So here is a guy willing to lay it all on the line to save a
>     coral reef area
>     >     that is imminently threatened.
>     >     We should all be willing to help.
>     >     The question is what specifically can be done beyond signing
>     a petition and
>     >     sending a couple of emails?
>     >     What is happening to the Marshall Islands (and Dean
>     Jacobson) should be
>     >     taken as a glaring forewarning of broader things to come.
>     >     Steve
>     >
>     >
>     > ------------------------------
>     >
>     > Message: 2
>     > Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2014 21:25:11 +0000
>     > From: "Delbeek, Charles"<CDelbeek at calacademy.org
>     <mailto:CDelbeek at calacademy.org>>
>     > Subject: Re: [Coral-List] The Saga of Dean Jacobson and Majuro Coral
>     >       Mining  (Jim Hendee)
>     > To: coral list<coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>     <mailto:coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>>
>     > Message-ID:
>     >      
>     <547D4E9855DEF447822EC3C9D76CE9EB286416D6 at MAILBOX01.calacademy.org
>     <mailto:547D4E9855DEF447822EC3C9D76CE9EB286416D6 at MAILBOX01.calacademy.org>>
>     > Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
>     >
>     > What I find somewhat disturbing is that this not new, Dean has
>     been actively petitioning this list for help in raising awareness
>     at all levels of government for this issue, yet it seems as if
>     some are treating this as new. It is not ... Dean has been waging
>     this battle for several years, with little help from those in a
>     position to actually help.
>     >
>     > J. Charles Delbeek, M.Sc.
>     >
>     >
>     > -----Original Message-----
>     > From:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>     <mailto:From%3Acoral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>      [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>     <mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>] On Behalf Of
>     Carly Kenkel
>     > Sent: Friday, March 14, 2014 11:27 AM
>     > To: coral list
>     > Subject: Re: [Coral-List] The Saga of Dean Jacobson and Majuro
>     Coral Mining (Jim Hendee)
>     >
>     > Dear Coral-Listers,
>     >
>     > I feel compelled to write in support of Dean Jacobson and his
>     attempts to
>     > raise awareness concerning the impending doom of reefs in
>     Majuro. I had the
>     > pleasure of meeting Dean in 2010 when I spent a few weeks in the US
>     > Marshall Islands sampling corals as part of NOAA funded project
>     aimed at
>     > evaluating genetic connectivity of Acroporids across Micronesia.
>      Dean was
>     > kind enough to introduce me to the local reefs and share some of
>     his work
>     > documenting reef diversity in the region.
>     >
>     > The fragile status of reefs in and around Majuro are a conservation
>     > biologist's worst nightmare. Majuro and Arno contain some of the
>     most
>     > striking atolls I have ever seen. The structure of these reefs is
>     > breathtaking and though far from pristine, there are coral
>     species on these
>     > island that I have never seen anywhere else, such as the super-rare
>     > "elkhorn" coral that made headlines a few years ago (
>     >
>     http://www.nbcnews.com/id/38566957/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/worlds-rarest-coral-found-remote-pacific-atoll/#.UyMs8V5siA0).
>     > However, these islands are also some of the most impoverished in
>     > Micronesia, combining the worst attributes of a US-funded
>     welfare state
>     > with a social structure that places all the wealth and power in
>     the hands
>     > of a corrupt minority.
>     >
>     > While I'm sure the Marshallese care about their home, reef
>     conservation
>     > will always take a backseat to feeding their families. There are
>     > individuals and organizations involved in conservation efforts
>     in Majuro.
>     > However, I witnessed as members of a conservation organization
>     on Majuro
>     > turned a blind eye to a massive female turtle when she rolled
>     onto the dock
>     > in Arno, filling the bed of a truck, belly up. She was caught
>     while digging
>     > a nest on the beach and destined to be the prime delicacy at a
>     birthday
>     > cook-out back on Majuro.
>     >
>     > Given Dean's experience and my own observations, I do not think
>     local
>     > efforts to prevent dredging are capable of success.  However,
>     the Marshall
>     > Islands are a US protectorate, and clearly the FAA and EPA have some
>     > control over this project. I know people who read this listserv have
>     > connections to policy makers in the US.  As Dr. Hendee pointed
>     out, more
>     > can be done. If you are able, please take the time to make
>     inquiries about
>     > the runway extension project at Majuro. I believe our combined
>     efforts can
>     > make an impact.
>     >
>     > Best,
>     >
>     > Carly
>     >
>     _______________________________________________
>     Coral-List mailing list
>     Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <mailto:Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>     http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> -- 
> Dennis Hubbard
> Chair, Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
> (440) 775-8346
> /* "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*/
>  Benjamin Stein: "/Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream/"

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