Hawaii reefs provide $835M worth of flood protection

According to a new study, flood protection worth $835 million is provided by the coral reefs in Hawaii and the state benefits from that annually.

The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of California-Santa Cruz worked together on the report which established the value received by the islands from the natural formations, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Saturday.

In order to create the models that would allow for estimating values for almost 2,000 miles of U.S. coral reef coastline, the team worked along with the engineering and insurance industries.

A research professor at UC-Santa Cruz, co-author Michael Beck, said in a statement that the value of coral reefs is often taken for granted by people when it comes to coastal protection.

The wave energy offshore is dissipated up to 97% by the reefs that act as submerged breakwaters. The best flood risk maps available for U.S. coastlines, for now, have been built by the new research which can also predict risk at 10 meters by 10 meters (33 feet by 33 feet), which is comparable to one-100th of a city block, according to Beck.

“What you sort of forget is that if that reef weren’t offering that protection, you and that beach would not be there,” he said.

More than $1.8 billion in flood protection is provided by reefs annually, including $395 million on Oahu, $12 million on Kauai, $377 million on Maui and $51 million on the Big Island, based on the report.

According to the report, more than $435 million in flood protection could be provided by the coral reefs off Honolulu alone in a 50-year storm.

The coastlines of American Samoa, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida were also included in the research.

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Jeff Wilkinson

About the Author: Jeff Wilkinson

Jeff Wilkinson  is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining  Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.

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