Waikiki Beach coral reef restoration project recommended for $9M NOAA grant
Pictured here is a model of stacked 3D printed concrete nurseries designed for Hawaii fish and other sea creatures. Each module is about one cubic yard in size. (Courtesy Natrx)

Reeframe, a project off Waikiki Beach by Hawaii-based ocean engineering firm Oceanit and other partners, has been recommended for a $9 million grant by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Habitat Conservation.

The coral reef restoration project, which also includes the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, Conservation International, ocean technology firm Natrx and Hawaii workforce development nonprofit ClimbHI, is slated to run from summer 2023 through mid-2026.

“Many reefs in the region are now so degraded that there is little living coral, collapsing to the point where they no longer provide shelter for fish,” said Mark Hixon, Reeframe science lead from UH Manoa’s School of Life Sciences.

Pending approval of environmental studies and permits, the Reeframe team and other stakeholders hope to build two permanent coral nurseries — each about 100 feet by 100 feet wide and about 6 feet tall — on the ocean floor nearly a mile offshore of Waikiki. The nurseries will be made out of 3D-printed concrete modules stacked in organic shapes with multiple openings and overhangs. 

Construction could begin by 2025.

“[This] project will assist the natural process of coral regrowth by providing the structural framework that is needed for a healthy reef ecosystem,” said Mike Foley, Oceanit coastal engineer, in a news release. 

The approach was also validated by a preliminary experimental study off Waikiki by Hixon and his lab.

ClimbHI will connect project organizers with schools statewide to provide opportunities for student and educator participation, as well as partnerships with various industries. The Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources will facilitate the project’s permitting process. 

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