Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What’s An Island Beach Without Sand?

(Photo:Star Advertiser)
A few months ago, I wrote about the big $2.5 million project to replenish 1,730 feet of beach at Waikiki with sand pumped from the sea bed offshore. (What’s a Beach Worth Without Sand?)

After three months of work, the project is still being finished up. Initially, workers loaded sand sucked from offshore into an air-conveyance machine designed to blow it down the beach through an underground pipeline. Due to mechanical problems the pipeline method failed to work so they’re doing it the old fashion way: truck the sand on the beach to spots in need of widening.

That’s tourist-centric Waikiki Beach.

Yesterday, the US Geological Survey reported that about 70 percent of the beaches on Oahu, Kauai and Maui are being lost to long-term erosion. The 10-year study found 85 percent of beaches are eroding on Maui, 71 percent are eroding on Kauai and 60 percent of Oahu's beaches are eroding, according to a news report in the Star Advertiser, Erosion taking a big bite out of isle beaches

The study attributed accelerated loss due to human activity. Of the 9 percent of beaches lost on Oahu, Maui and Kauai totaling 13.3 miles in the past century, nearly all of them have been lost due to the building of sea walls.    The shoreline changes will be further accelerated by sea level rise, estimated by be close to 3 feet by the end of the century.

The study's lead author said that, with the new information about coastal erosion, government agencies have the ability to develop new policies to establish building "setbacks" based on erosion rates of a specific property.

Hard to imagine the government doing that in development-frenzied Hawaii. But what’s an island to do with beaches without sand?

--Mike Sato

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