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08/30/12 UPDATE: Dean Jacobson

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”).
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.

Please,  sign the petition, 6000 more signatures would make a big difference.

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.