Coral Reef Project: Kauaʻi

Science Center Objects

As part of the USGS Coral Reef Project, the USGS is working on the island of Kauaʻi to identify circulation patterns and a sediment budget for Hanalei Bay to help determine any effects to the coastal marine ecosystem.

Aerial view of an island with clouds floating above it, with distinctive land features like mountains and agriculture.

This image was acquired on December 26, 2000, by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper plus instrument aboard NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite.


Geologically the oldest of the main eight Hawaiian Islands, the northernmost island of Kauaʻi has a total area of 142 sq km (552 sq mi). This island receives the most rainfall of the main eight Hawaiian Islands, thus giving its nickname of the Garden Isle. Kauaʻi is surrounded on all sides by a fringing reef, with a reef flat sometimes as wide as 1 km (0.6 mi). The reef is under the influence of high wave energy due to the island's geographic position.


In June 2005 the USGS began a partnership with the Hanalei Watershed Hui. In 1998 the Hanalei River was designated as an American Heritage River in order to foster cooperative, community-based efforts for the preservation of the surrounding environment. The Hanalei River Valley is home to numerous taro farms and water quality and useage for irrigation are of concern. In an effort to halt flooding, levees were built along portions of the river, thus leading to increased discharge into Hanalei Bay during storm events. We are working on identifying circulation patterns and a sediment budget for Hanalei Bay to help determine any effects to the coastal marine ecosystem including coral reefs. 

Other partners working in the Hanalei watershed area include the University of Hawaiʻi, the State of Hawaiʻi (Department of HealthDepartment of Land and Natural Resources), and Federal organizations (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation ServiceEnvironmental Protection AgencyNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency). Their sum total have contributed markedly to our understanding of processes in the watershed.