HANALEI — The swell on the way toward Kauai could be a lifeline for the coral struggling under a layer of mud and debris deposited by the April 15 flood.
How much of an impact the flood residue has had on the reefs, however, has yet to be fully defined.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources did not answer questions about any pending coral investigations before deadline Wednesday.
Marine scientist and underwater photographer Terry Lilley has been below the surface, though only in the bay at Anini where he says 10 percent of the corals are covered in mud.
“Hanalei is too dirty right now (to dive), but I am assuming it’s much worse,” Lilley said. “This swell we’ve got coming will do wonders for the water and for the corals, though.”
Lilley has photographs and video taken after the 2009 and after the 2013 floods that washed tires, lawn chairs and other debris onto the reef and he expects to see much of the same thing when he does dive in Hanalei Bay this time around.
“Some of that stuff from the ’09 and the ’13 flood is still out there,” he said.
From the recent flood, houses are still out on the reef in Hanalei Bay and it could have suffered damage from the buffalo that were displaced and running through the river mouth and out into the bay.
Cars, cargo containers and other large items were also washed away to sea and ended up underwater.
“We won’t know what it’s like until we get underwater and document it,” Lilley said. “But the swell coming in could be a lifesaver for the corals because if they’re covered with mud for too long, they’ll bleach.”
Vehicles are still buried in the sand at Black Pot Beach and boats are still cruising back and forth from Hanalei Bay to Ha’ena loaded with supplies for those who are on the other side of the landslides closing Kauai’s main highway.
Volunteers have been and will continue to be combing the beaches for debris and trash with Surfrider Kauai’s Net Patrol beach cleanups.
Sharks in the murky water remain a concern.
“I’ve been surfing out in the bowl and have seen the tiger sharks out there,” Lilley said. “A friend of mine told me he saw one yesterday.”
No sharks have been reported in Hanalei Bay since the flood, but on April 19 a 29-year-old Colorado man was bitten while body boarding at Shipwrecks on the South Side.
Jessica Else, environmental reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.