HomeColumbus Iselin Coeal Reef Restoration Project


The Project

The Project



Restoration Design


The Authorities

The Authorities

Project Staff

Project Staff


Welcome to the Columbus Iselin Reef Restoration site-- here you'll find up-to-date information about the restoration and learn about what's involved with the restoration of one of America's most significant coastal barrier coral reefs. Reef restoration after a large vessel grounding within a unique marine protected area like the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is one of the many significant management challenges faced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Overview of boulders at repair site "E" from the contractor's barge. Click here to see the most recent images from the restoration site.

Current Field Status Report provides a regular update on the current phase of the project (below).

Project Overview

The R/V Columbus Iselin, a 155-foot research vessel owned by the University of Miami, went aground on an ancient coral reef in Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary just before midnight on August 10, 1994. (Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary is now part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and lies about five nautical miles southwest of Big Pine Key.) The vessel remained on the reef for 38 hours. Injury assessments immediately afterward showed extensive damage to four spurs of the reef, as well as significant debris in the surrounding area. NOAA will be reconstructing these four spurs during this project. The grounding destroyed 163.88 square meters of living coral and 338 square meters of the reef framework, killing or displacing large numbers of hard corals, sea fans, sponges, fish and other marine creatures. This was further exacerbated by storm damage.

Whenever a grounding occurs within a national marine sanctuary, NOAA can seek damages to cover response, injury and damage assessment, restoration and replacement of the damaged habitat or acquisition of equivalent habitat, and compensation of the public for the value of the damaged resources until full recovery. The University of Miami settled with NOAA for $3.76 million in natural resource damage claims for the Columbus Iselin grounding, including a $200,000 civil penalty. The settlement includes funds for physical and biological restoration and monitoring of the Columbus Iselin site, as well as compensatory restoration and monitoring (such as grounding prevention) elsewhere in the sanctuary .

This site provides you with detailed information on the project including technical specifications, introduces you to the people involved, provides maps and images of the restoration site, and shares current information from the restoration site itself. The restoration takes place between July 12th and September 7th. Updates will be provided on a 4-7 day basis.

Lisa Symons, Project Coordinator


Field Status Reports

July 31, 1999

Thirty-two cubic yards of concrete was shipped out to the barge via the landing craft. Tremie pours were conducted on both July 31 and August 1 on Site "E." With the remaining boulders being placed to grade on the site. An unavoidable "blowout" of concrete occurred through an unseen opening in the sediment, this spilled a small amount of tremie concrete into the adjacent sand channel. Cleanup of this will take place after completion of the restoration work.

August 1, 1999

The Kane Film and Video LLC film crew contracted to NOAA starts filming restoration work. Water clarity and visibility was extremely good, waves were calm. The team finished several tremie pours and placed most of the surface dressing or topping boulders on Site "E". Click here to see recent images from the restoration site.

August 3, 1999

Thunderstorms, lightning and high winds forced the barge to pull off the site and retreat to the storm anchor mid-day. One of the mooring points was damaged and will have to be replaced.

August 4, 1999

The project team located and placed a new mooring point for the barge and also located and placed a mooring point for the inspection boats on site. The barge remains on the storm anchor. The rest of the project team returned to shore to catch up on paperwork and get supplies.

August 5, 1999

The barge moved off the storm anchor and into Key West (Stock Island) to pick up more concrete and other supplies and to ride out the weather. The team is expected to move back on site tomorrow.



Project Log
July 12 - Sept 7, 1999

Project Mobilization
(text and images)


Repair of the
First two Spurs

(text and images)


Second two Spurs
(new images available)


VIP/Press Event
(new images available)


& Next Steps

(new images available)





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