HONOLULU (AP) — HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii officials said they plan to seek money from the U.S. Navy for environmental damage to a coral reef caused by a warship that ran aground in February.
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The state said Wednesday it would file a claim in Admiralty Court for the damage and cost of emergency restoration for the reef, which dates back hundreds of years. Hawaii would also seek money for other coral habitat restoration projects. Officials did not specify a dollar amount, which would be decided by the court.
Laura Thielen, chairwoman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, told the Navy of the state’s intentions in a letter Tuesday to Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald, judge advocate general, in Washington.
The 9,600-ton USS Port Royal ran aground Feb. 5 about a half-mile (kilometer) offshore near Honolulu. It sustained between $25 million to $40 million in damages while lodged on top the reef in an area "clearly marked on all navigational charts," Thielen’s letter said.
"There is a critical need for the U.S. Navy to mitigate the damage which has occurred, which continues to occur, and which will get worse with the upcoming south summer swell," Thielen wrote. "We urge the U.S. Navy to commit appropriate resources to rescue disturbed or destroyed coral, remove or stabilize rubble, and protect loose live coral."
In a statement, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said it planned to meet with state officials Thursday about a coordinated plan to fix the damage. The Navy’s assessment of the damage was only recently completed, the fleet said, and they have been trying to do a detailed analysis of the data before proposing a plan to fix it.
The ship left a main gash through the reef covering about 1,600 square yards (1,338 square meters) .
Thielen described it as a complex, ancient reef, with coral colonies that took hundred of years to take form and provides shelter and feeding grounds for many different species.
The $1 billion ship is currently in dry-dock at its home port of Pearl Harbor for repairs.
The Navy hasn’t said what caused the grounding. An investigation is ongoing, and the Navy relieved the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. John Carroll, of his duties in the meantime.