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Coral new obstacle to replacement airfield

Date Posted: 2007-09-13

Construction of a new US military airfield at Camp Schwab in northern Okinawa, already plagued by delays surrounding demands for runways realignment to protect residents from noise, has encountered a new glitch.

A colony of live blue coral has been discovered in Oura Bay, where legs of two runways are to be constructed for the airfield scheduled to replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan City.

Environmental specialists say they have checked and double checked the data, and the blue coral is not only alive, but it’s the second largest colony ever discovered.

Ishigaki City’s Shiraho area is the site of the world’s largest known blue coral colony. The shiny blue coral grows in shallow waters, and is not uncommon. The colony discovered in Oura Bay measures 80 meters long and 27 meters wide. It is underwater at depths of 1~12 meters.

Mariko Abe, who heads a study group checking out the area in advance of reclamation work for the new airfield, says the blue coral could die if waters become muddy by the land reclamation activity. “We didn’t realize this colony at Oura Bay existed,” Abe said, “because it’s not a place for divers. We didn’t have complete information.

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