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Restoration complete after French military vessel damages coral reef

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Reef restoration efforts have finally been completed after a French military vessel ran aground in May. A 21-meter "grounding scar" on the coral reef...that's what was left after a military vessel ran aground near Reserve Craft Beach in Piti earlier this year.

The accident happened during a joint multinational exercise between US and French forces.

Hours after the incident took place, Joint Region Marianas chief of staff Captain Jeff Grimes said an initial assessment revealed limited information about the extent of the damage. "There were no personnel injuries, and there was no release of petroleum or other hazardous constituents to the environment," he explained.

Now it's known that the grounding caused major damage to the coral reef. Guam Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson Nick Lee said, "Some of the displaced coral were from the size of your fist, to the size of boulders with 3- or - foot radius."

While some coral were simply displaced, others died as a result of the accident. "So the team did what they could to salvage whatever they could, and the coral that was dead, was relocated to another part of the ocean," said Lee.

Restoration efforts were completed in June in collaboration with the Navy, Joint Region Marianas, Guam EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Guam Coastal Management Program, the Department of Agriculture, the Port Authority of Guam and Guam Customs and Quarantine.

Divers removed debris including dead coral and also secured coral using materials including rebar and cement. "And that's really so they don't become displaced in a future storm surge or typhoon and cause potentially more damage as it serves as an underwater projectile essentially," he said.

Lee could not provide a cost-estimate for the restoration effort, but noted many of the services and utilized equipment were provided in-kind and at the discretion of each agency.

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