Study says reefs provide $835M in flood protection
HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s coral reefs provide more than $835 million in flood protection for the state annually, according to a new study.
The report by the U.S. Geological Survey, The Nature Conservancy and the University of California-Santa Cruz established the value that the natural formations provide the islands.
The team worked with the engineering and insurance industries to create models estimating values for almost 2,000 miles of U.S. coral reef coastline.
“Most people have no idea how valuable coral reefs are for coastal protection,” co-author Michael Beck, a research professor at UC-Santa Cruz, said in a statement.
Reefs act as submerged breakwaters, dissipating up to 97% of wave energy offshore. The new research has built what are now the best flood risk maps available for U.S. coastlines, predicting risk at 33 feet by 33 feet, which Beck said is comparable to one-100th of a city block.
“What you sort of forget is that if that reef wasn’t offering that protection, you and that beach would not be there,” he said.
Reefs provide more than $1.8 billion in flood protection annually, including about $12 million on Kauai, $395 million on Oahu, $377 million on Maui and $51 million on the Big Island, the report said.
The report says that in a 50-year storm, coral reefs off Honolulu alone could provide more than $435 million in flood protection.
The research included the coastlines of Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Hotel will lay off 78 employees in planned closure
HONOLULU (AP) — The closure of a Hawaii hotel is expected to result in up to 78 employee layoffs.
Diamond Resorts has notified 78 workers at The Modern Honolulu that their positions are to be eliminated in the next 30 days, news outlets reported Friday.
Unite Here Local 5 labor union represents the workers and posted information on its website Thursday about the anticipated job losses on the Big Island.
The layoffs will affect about 30% of the hotel’s staff across multiple departments including housekeeping, banquets, pool, in-room dining, reservations, and food and beverage.
Las Vegas-based Diamond Resorts purchased The Modern in April 2018 for a reported $225 million. The company plans to convert the hotel into timeshare apartments.
Local 5 said it has filed federal complaints about unfair labor practices.
“When tourism is our No. 1 industry, we need to ask ourselves: Which companies are benefiting Hawaii’s people and which ones are hurting us?” said Gemma Weinstein, Local 5 president. “Timeshares have shown over and over again that they hurt Hawaii more than they help.”
The company did not take the decision lightly and terminated employees have been offered severance packages, a Diamond Resorts representative said.
“We want to make sure they have support as they transition to new careers and we will be here for them through that process as we convert the property into a vacation ownership resort,” the spokesperson said.
Jack Krause, a bar attendant who was among those laid off, said he and his girlfriend will face financial hardships as a result.
“Severance isn’t a job,” he said. “I just want to work.”