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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hawaii groups get federal money to protect reefs

By Dennis Camire
Advertiser Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON Three Hawai`i groups will share $218,500 in federal grants for projects aimed at protecting the state's coral reefs, two federal programs announced today.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Coral Reef Conservation Program in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded the $750,000 in grants to help stop damage to coral reefs in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

"Healthy coral reefs provide the United States and thousands of communities around the world with food, jobs, shoreline protection, recreation and income," said acting NOAA administrator William J. Brennan.

The largest Hawai`i grant, $87,500, will go to the University of Hawai`i at Manoa to help pinpoint pollution sources in Maunalua Bay on O'ahu's southeast coast.

The bay contains a variety of corals but has become polluted because of poor land-use practices and flood control practices. The university's study will pinpoint the primary sources of pollution and analyze mitigation measures.

Another $69,010 grant will go to the Molokai Island invasive species control committee to remove invasive alien algae from around the island and educate the community on how to prevent its spread.

Non-native species of algae were imported to the state three decades ago to stimulate the aquaculture industry but have spread out of control, smothering the reefs. The project will include community clean-up events, education workshops and outreach activities.

The Community Conservation Network of Kaua'i, O'ahu and the Big Island will receive a $62,000 grant to work with the Hawai`i Division of Aquatic Resources and coastal communities to develop public-private partnerships to conserve the state's coral reefs.

The federal grant money is being matched with another $1.45 million in other funding, including money from the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation in Hawai`i, for a total of $2.2 million in spending on reef conservation.

The remaining grants went to programs in American Samoa, Micronesia, St. Lucia, Belize, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Netherlands Antilles.

Reach Dennis Camire at dcamire@gns.gannett.com.