Author Archives: Jon Pasierb

Holiday bash a smashing success

Friends, family, business associates and community partners gathered to ring in the new year in style at the RMIPA annual holiday party held Saturday, January 4 at Lanai in downtown Majuro.

The night kicked off with speeches by RMIPA Board Chairman David Paul, RMIPA Director Jack Chong-Gum and Airport Manager Thomas Maddison. “The Board and I are happy to be able to throw this party for the employees and their families,” Chong-Gum said. “It’s a small way to say thanks for all the hard work everyone puts in during the year.”

Food, music, dancing, games and raffle prize giveaways followed as everyone relaxed and enjoyed the evening. A big kommol tata and Happy New Year to everyone who attended. We are excited to begin a pleasant and prosperous 2014 on a high note and look forward to seeing everyone again soon.

RMIPA would like to give a special thanks to the following sponsors and contributors:
Air Marshall Islands, Bank of Guam, Bank of Marshall Islands, Copymaster, Home Garden, Jack Chong-Gum, Joe Tiobech, Lyon Associates, Majuro Computer Service, Marshall Islands Resort, MIMRA, MEC, MWSC, NTA, Pony Ma (Ching Fu n AOMI), Riwut Corner, Rowena Manalo, Thomas Maddison, Uliga Shipping Agency, Z-Brother

 

RMIPA Xmas1

 

RMIPA bids farewell to a friend

Member

On January 2, 2014, RMIPA Board Member Gary “Kakki” Elaisha passed away on Ebeye from an apparent heart attack.

Kakki had been a very active member of the RMIPA board for the past two years and was firmly committed to improving the agency’s operations and services for the people of Majuro and Kwajalein. He was a joy to work with and his good humor and helpful nature will be dearly missed by everyone who knew and worked with him.

The RMIPA Board, management and staff offer our deepest condolences and prayers for Gary’s family during this very difficult time.

 

Coral Remediation Update

A new dive survey was recently conducted at the dredge site to get a better idea of the conditions and produce recommendations for optimal coral regrowth. The current approximate rehabilitation area to date is 7,139 square meters — much smaller than original projections — and the whole rehabilitation area is suitable for coral regrowth and would easily support artificial reef structures and large rock boulder piles, which are the proposed methods to be used for the re-propagation. As part of the efforts to mitigate any potential long-term risks to the environment, RMIPA continues to work closely with the RMI EPA on the coral reef rehabilitation project that has been underway since last year, to replant existing corals that are being affected by the dredging.

The replanting project has been underway since the beginning of the year, as new corals have been growing in cages in the lagoon at a previous dredge site alongside the road near the airport fire station. After the dredging work is completed for the RSA project, this coral will be relocated back to that site and used to repopulate the area, leaving the coral there strong and healthy.  According to EPA’s coral expert, contracted to spearhead the current regrowth efforts, the new coral in the lagoon are growing even better than expected and should experience similar success at the RSA dredge site, once transplanted back again.

Coral

These photos taken December 2013 show the progress of the coral replanting near the airport fire station.

Coral fragmenting and attachment of coral plugs will begin soon as part of the next phase of the project, which will be in preparation for replanting onto boulders and marine-friendly concrete structures that are to be placed in the RSA dredging area. The concrete structures are designed artificial reefs used to restore coral reefs and to create new fishing and scuba diving sites.

The coral pieces growing onto the plugs at the farm site will be attached onto the structures at the dredging location when the dredging work is finished. Thereafter, the attached coral will be monitored regularly by local divers to ensure the corals are growing properly.

It was previously proposed that proprietary “reef ball” structures be used for the planting at the RSA dredge site, but it has been determined that this strategy would be inadequate and cost prohibitive. Instead the construction contractor pro- posed a new solution which would not only be just as effective as the reef balls but would utilize local Marshallese manpower and resources, benefiting the project and the local economy.

Instead of the reef balls, a concrete “reef planter” derived from flower planter molds, will be used. These planters are bell shaped, concrete/alkali cement, pitted structures, weighing about 400 pounds each. They can be stacked to raise the height. The planters would be the same structure and material as the previously proposed reef balls, just lighter weight and a slightly different shape. They will be more economical and versatile than the reef balls. They are much lighter than the originally proposed reef balls, but the height and weight should not be an issue, as the structures can be stacked to be elevated above the silt and at 400 pounds, are more than heavy enough to be used in the depth of the dredge site, which is about 30 feet at its deepest.

Reef Planters

Reef Planters at the RSA Dredge Site waiting to be placed under water.

RMI EPA has no objections to using the concrete reef planter structures in place of the reef balls and has expressed support for the use of local solutions and the cost-effective benefits they provide. As it has with every aspect of the coral replanting project, RMI EPA will work closely with the construction and dive teams to test the system. EPA has publicly expressed its desire to maintain the highest protection standards and has backed the alternative planter system, citing the potential future benefits these planters could have for other projects in the RMI.

 

Coral Flourishing at the Airport

Improvements to infrastructure and the environment go hand-in-hand on Majuro

Who doesn’t like a win-win situation? Majuro residents and visitors can rest assured that ongoing projects to improve the public safety and operations in and around Amata Kabua International Airport (AKIA) need not have negative effects on the local fish and wildlife. At a meeting held May 9 at the RMI Ports Authority (RMIPA) office, representatives from the RMI Environmental Protection Authority (RMI EPA) and their private consultants met with RMIPA to discuss the current Runway Safety Area Improvement project, which will upgrade standards at the airport to provide safer conditions for travelers.

A meeting was held May 9, 2013 at RMIPA headquarters to discuss the status of the Runway Safety Area Improvement and Road Realignment Project.

A meeting was held May 9, 2013 at RMIPA headquarters to discuss the status of the Runway Safety Area Improvement and Road Realignment Project.

As part of this project, the roadway adjacent to the airport will be realigned, which is requiring dredging in some areas of the lagoon along the roadside. The EPA has been involved with this work every step of the way to ensure that the work being done in the lagoon conforms to an Environmental Management Plan that includes strict guidelines regarding the impact that construction work may have on environmental conditions. RMIPA Director Jack Chong-Gum said at the meeting that the dredging currently being performed adhered to this plan. “It is very important to us that we make sure all construction work associated with this project is following the environmental management plan approved by the EPA,” he said. As part of these efforts to mitigate any potential long-term risks to the environment, RMIPA is working closely with the EPA on a coral reef rehabilitation project, which has been underway since last year, to replant and propagate existing corals that are being affected by the dredging.

Various coral types grow at the coral farm in the lagoon near the AKIA fire station.

Various coral types grow at the coral farm in the lagoon near the AKIA fire station.

New reef ball being lowered.

Photo Credit: Reef Ball Foundation

The planting project is already in full swing, as new corals have been growing in cages since January and are currently flourishing in the lagoon at a new site alongside the road near the airport fire station. After the dredging work is completed, this new coral will be relocated back to the original site and used to repopulate the area, leaving the coral at the current dredge site as strong and healthy as ever. Currently, the dredging work is approximately 60 percent complete and the dredged site will be significantly smaller than originally projected, meaning the coral rehabilitation footprint will not be as large as initially expected. RMIPA is working diligently to ensure that potential environmental impacts are being addressed throughout the multiple phases of this project, which will also include new shoreline protection work at the dredge site to protect the road to the airport and the Majuro reservoirs from erosion. At the meeting, EPA Chairman Reginald White said that this shoreline revetment work also is of important environmental concern. “We want to reiterate that the revetment work was a mandatory condition for approval of this project, due to the potential future effects that erosion and sea-level rise may have on this area,” he said. Meanwhile, according to the coral expert contracted by EPA to spearhead the regrowth efforts, the new coral in the lagoon are growing even better than expected. Before the new plantings, a survey of the affected areas was performed to identify the specific coral species present. After the new coral farm had been constructed, test corals were planted to confirm this location would provide healthy growth for the corals being farmed. Coral was then relocated from the affected area to the farm site by use of a boat and divers and the corals were separated into individual cages by species to hold and grow until coral fragmenting work starts. This coral fragmenting and attachment of coral plugs will begin soon as part of the next phase of the project. This will be in preparation for replanting onto boulders and concrete structures that are to be constructed in the affected area. These concrete structures, called reef balls, are designed artificial reefs used to restore ailing coral reefs and to create new fishing and scuba diving sites. Reef balls are made of a special, marine-friendly concrete and are designed to mimic natural reef systems.

Underwater reef ball covered with coral.

Underwater reef ball covered with coral. Photo courtesy of Reef Ball Foundation.

The coral pieces growing onto the plugs at the farm site will then be attached onto the reef balls at the dredging location when the dredging and shoreline protection work is finished. Thereafter, the attached coral will be monitored regularly by divers to ensure the corals are growing properly. This is very exciting as it is the first coral rehabilitation project to be undertaken in the Marshall Islands. The coral replanting and rehabilitation is just one part of the work being done to make sure that the runway and road realignment project is good for the community, remediates harm to the marine environment and overall is very positive for the environment. Additionally, there are recreational and beautification efforts underway, which include plans for a new community park with playground facilities and public exercise areas to be located in an area between the terminal building and the airport water reservoirs. “This is a really good project because there are various benefits to the public that will be coming as a result of the work currently being performed,” said Chong-Gum. “Not only will it improve safety for our airport users, but there are some exciting community development projects that are in the works, too.”