Monday, June 13, 2005

Lahaina resident Derek James played with his puppy Garnet on Friday on the seawall fronting the brig Carthaginian, whose owner proposes sinking it in waters off Puamana Park. The vessel would serve as an underwater tour attraction.

Scuttle me timbers

Atlantis moves forward with plans
to sink the brig Carthaginian as
an artificial reef off Maui

Plans to make the ship Carthaginian an artificial reef off West Maui are moving ahead, after some changes to make it safer for whales and other marine mammals.

State welcomes comments from public

A public hearing on Atlantis Adventures-Maui's plan to sink the ship Carthaginian as an artificial reef will be held at 6 p.m. July 5 at the Lahaina Civic Center. For more information, contact the Department of Land and Natural Resources' Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands at 587-0377.

Atlantis Adventures-Maui hopes to sink the two-masted vessel 3,100 feet offshore from Puamana Beach Park before December, when humpback whales return to Maui, it said in information it submitted to the state.

Testimony received by the Department of Land and Natural Resources at a July 5 public hearing in Lahaina will become part of its permit request to the agency.

The 97-foot brig has been a floating museum for the Lahaina Restoration Foundation in Lahaina Harbor since 1976 but became too expensive for the group to maintain or repair.

It was the second 20th-century-made ship to serve as a replica for the Carthaginian that brought New England missionaries to Hawaii in the 1800s.

Atlantis is spending $350,000 to prepare and sink the Carthaginian to a depth of about 100 feet. The company's application to the state also seeks to sink other, unspecified ships or artificial reefs at a second site about 1,500 feet from the Carthaginian's proposed resting place.

The Carthaginian would be anchored to the sea floor in a fixed position and have a permanent mooring installed for dive boats. Its tallest portion would be 40 feet underwater and invisible from the surface.

"Clearly, the Carthaginian artificial reef will make our sub tour experience more interesting for our customers, similar to what has been accomplished off Waikiki," said Jim Walsh, general manager of Atlantis Adventures-Maui.

"Using the Carthaginian to create an artificial reef will significantly enhance the growth of new marine life in the area and have the added benefit of providing a new location for commercial and recreation users that will help relieve pressure off our natural reefs," Walsh said.

chart Artificial reefs that Atlantis created from sunken ships and airplanes off Waikiki do seem to have attracted fish and other marine life over the dozen years, said Jeff Walters, co-manager of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Atlantis responded to earlier concerns about marine mammals getting entangled in the sunken ship's rigging by removing most of it and tightening what remains, Walters said.

"They took efforts to mitigate possible impacts," Walters said. "We (at the sanctuary) think a certain amount of sport diving and fishing is compatible with whale conservation."

A couple of West Maui residents who frequent Puamana Park said they did not think the sinking of the Carthaginian would create a problem and might enhance the reef area by attracting more fish.

Bruce Laserna, a surfer, said there is not enough parking at Puamana Park, but he expects the tour businesses will bring visitors on boats.

"It will be good for the tourists," said Glenn Magalianes.

Reporter Gary Kubota contributed to this article.

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