Limited Environmental Damage in Hawai’i Aloha Grounding
According to the State of Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources, the grounding of the sailing vessel Hawai’i Aloha on Jan. 3 caused limited resource damage.
The DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources conducted an in-water assessment of the area offshore of the grounding on Tuesday.
“The good news is this boat grounded on a bench area, so we didn’t expect to see any catastrophic damage to coral reef environments. We did see some broken coral heads, but it’s impossible to determine whether the boat caused this is damage, or they were impacted by the storm that resulted in the boat’s grounding,” Dr. Bill Walsh, the DNLR/DAR aquatic biologist for West Hawai’i said.
During the assessment, the DAR team found various debris scattered on the ocean floor, including small pieces of fiberglass, cloth, eating and cooking utensils, and personal items. A follow-up on the removal of the debris will be completed by the DLNR.
Hazardous medical waste was removed by non-DLNR divers shortly after the vessel grounded in early January.
Last week the 74-foot long, 84-ton cement vessel was removed from the near-shore bench by Sea Engineering Inc. under a $150,000 contract from DLNR.
“Sea Engineering did a good job and they did it quicker that I thought they could do it. They did it quicker than they thought they could do it. So they did a good job,” said Dan Mersburgh, acting Hawai’i district manager for the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation in Kailua-Kona.
Using a land based excavator, the company dragged the vessel onto the beach, where they broke it up and dumped it into a truck for disposal at the county landfill.
The cost of the salvage was funded by DLNR. The insurance covering the Hawai’i Aloha did not cover wreck removal.
A new policy has been instituted by the DLNR/DOBOR as a result of the incident. The policy requires vessels using temporary state moorings to show proof of adequate coverage in the event of an accident or grounding.
Ed Underwood, DOBOR administrator explained, “We are saddened that one man was lost at sea when the Hawai’i Aloha grounded during the storm. To protect State of Hawai’i taxpayers, we want to be sure that all vessels temporarily mooring in Hawai’i water have adequate coverage to cover incidents like this grounding.”