Beach nourishment is a critical need for beaches throughout the United States and other parts of the world. The supply of sand for beaches in the U.S. is a major component of the mission of the Minerals Management Service, and the technical developments required in tropical island environments is a key focus of research at the Marine Minerals Technology Center, Ocean Basins Division (MMTC/OBD) in close collaboration with the Continental Shelf Division (CSD) and the Arctic Shelf Division (ASD).

Tropical islands having U.S. jurisdiction or responsibilities include the State of Hawai'i, the Commonwealths of Puerto Rico and Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Palau, American Samoa, Wake, Johnston, Palmyra, Jarvis, Howland and Baker. The use of coastal sands for commercial purposes in tropical islands has resulted in critical problems of coastal erosion largely because the sand supply, except for the largest islands, is derived entirely from the adjacent coral reefs and their associated life forms. Considerable work is still needed to resolve these problems which include damage or removal of beaches, seawater flooding of agricultural lands and destruction of communities.

Environmentally and commercially sustainable acquisition of sand for beach nourishment or infrastructure development must be preceded by:

  1. an examination of production needs versus available supply;

  2. delineation and characterization of source deposits;

  3. field sampling and analysis of biological habitats within the deposit; and

  4. evaluation of recovery, transportation and placement options.

MMTC has had wide experience in each of these areas and the divisions have collaborated in this work on a continuing basis.

The State of Hawaii, through its Department of Land and Natural Resources has formed a Marine and Coastal Zone Management Advisory Group (MACZMAG) with a Sub-Committee on Coastal Erosion. The subcommittee is examining the feasibility of providing a limited one stop permitting process for offshore sand mining and a demonstration project to mine sand from relatively deep water and place it on a selected beach. Some of the many problems to be overcome include a multiplicity of Federal, State and NGO interests, a paucity of data on the deposits and a serious limitation on funds.


The following sections present the task descriptions for the sand project at the University of Hawai'i Marine Minerals Technology Center for FY 1999. The tasks are designed to contribute as much as possible to the mission of MMS as it develops over time, to build on ongoing MMTC activities and, most importantly, to address the overall goals of the research program described in the supporting legislation for the Centers, the Marine Minerals Resources Act of 1996 (PL 104-325).

MMTC projects are directed toward research problems which address clearly recognized community problems. They usually consist of equipment and technique development, where there is a clearly defined need for improved technology, or environmental and deposit characterization, and where there are basic information gaps which impede logical and environmentally preferred marine mineral resource development.

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