US Virgin Islands will build its first artificial reef to protect itself from storms
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The US Virgin Islands will soon build its first artificial reef to protect its coasts and help the US territory become more resilient ahead of future storms, officials announced Thursday.
The 18-foot (5-metre) by 12-foot (4-metre) reef will be installed near the coast around St Thomas and is expected to be completed by July, according to the islands’ department of planning and natural resources.
The project will be funded by more than $760,000 in federal money awarded to the University of the Virgin Islands after hurricanes Irma and Maria pounded the US territory in 2017.
Jean-Pierre L Oriol, the department’s commissioner, said university officials are choosing the strongest specimens from more than a dozen types of coral in nurseries to attach to the artificial reef. He said officials are working with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts to create an environmentally sensitive design.
“The goal is to provide enhanced habitat for corals struggling from climate change and provide added shoreline protection as we work to restore natural coral reefs,” said Marilyn Brandt, project manager and a research professor at University of the Virgin Islands.
The project comes as oceans grow warmer, leading to more powerful Atlantic hurricanes.