Monday, July 2, 2001

Tern Island project focuses
on replacing rusty seawall

Star-Bulletin staff

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is seeking public comments on its proposal to reconstruct the shore protection on Tern Island.

The island is located about 550 miles northwest of Honolulu within the French Frigate Shoals.

Officials of the Fish & Wildlife Service plan to replace the existing bulkhead (steel sheet piles) with slope rock embankments to protect the shoreline from erosion due to ocean water.

The bulkhead has protected the island for more than 50 years and is now severely corroded. Hawaiian green sea turtles, monk seals and seabirds constantly become trapped in areas behind the corroded bulkhead.


Tern Island is part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. It was established in 1909 and extends 900 miles in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands from Nihoa Island through Pearl and Hermes Atoll. The French Frigate Shoals provide terrestrial habitat for an estimated 80,000 to 90,000 pairs of 18 seabird species and is designated a critical habitat for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. More than 90 percent of the threatened green sea turtle nest in the atoll.

The draft environmental assessment has evaluated four alternatives:

>> Replacing 93 percent of the existing bulkhead with a combination of sloping rock revetment along the majority of the island's perimeter and a smaller amount of steel sheet pile bulkhead along the boat docking area. Cost of reconstruction is $12.6 million.

>> Partial protection for 54 percent of the northern shoreline and a portion south of the former U.S. Coast Guard facility barracks building. Cost of reconstruction is $8.1 million.

>> Partial protection for 44 percent of the western end of Tern Island. Cost of reconstruction is $8.1 million.

>> Under the no-action alternative, the bulkhead would be allowed to fully deteriorate, resulting in complete erosion of Tern Island.

In 1942 the U.S. Navy expanded the original 11-acre island into an airfield with support facilities. The resulting 34-acre island was almost entirely enclosed within a steel sheet pile bulkhead.

A deep shipping channel along the north and west side of the island reduced the island's protection from storm waves that were provided by reef flats. Reduced protection from wave action caused increasing erosion of the island.

The Navy abandoned the island at the end of World War II. In 1952 the U.S. Coast Guard began using Tern Island as a Long Range Aid to Navigation transmitting station.

In 1979 the Coast Guard returned the island to the Fish & Wildlife Service.

Officials of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said the continued erosion will result in the loss of terrestrial wildlife habitat. It will also affect marine resources.

Copies of the draft environmental assessment can be reviewed at any state library. Comments on the proposal are due by Aug. 15. Comments can be sent to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hawaiian/Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 300 Ala Moana, Room 5-231, Box 50167, Honolulu, HI 96850.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin