homepage logo

Researchers to probe beach restoration options in Kahana

By Staff | Jan 14, 2016

This photo taken on Jan. 23, 2015 shows the ocean coming right up to a resort’s property line in Kahana.

KAHANA – Funding has been released by the county for a study on a much-needed facelift at Kahana Beach.

Driven by two local authorities, Jim Buika and Tara Owens, a Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued for a “Scoping Study for Kahana Beach Erosion Mitigation through Regional Beach Nourishment.”

Owens is a Coastal Processes and Hazard Specialist with the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, serving as a liaison to the County of Maui Planning Department.

Buika is a planner with the County Planning Department, Current Division; his expertise is in geology.

Both are committed to protecting our coastal resources.

“Our shoreline rules are to preserve, protect and, where possible, restore our natural shoreline resources. This study is an attempt to follow the purpose of our law that’s been in place since 1978,” Buika advised the Lahaina News in an interview last week.

Additionally, he continued, “we have a (2003) law against building structures in the shoreline setback area, which is defined as a certain distance from the shoreline – it can be from 25 feet to 150 feet. It is around 50 feet for Kahana Bay, depending on the size of the parcel; but, basically, we have a law against building structures right on the shoreline for obvious reasons – to preserve the shoreline as well as to keep structures out of harm’s way.”

According to a description in the Scoping Study RFP, Kahana Bay “includes the approximately 3,000-foot-long-beach cell spanning from Pohaku Park (S-Turns) at the south end to Kahana Stream at the north end, and encompassing nine condominium complexes,” including (from north to south) Kahana Village, Kahana Outrigger, Kahana Reef, Pohailani, Hololani, Royal Kahana, Valley Isle Resort, Sands of Kahana and Kahana Beach Resort.

Kahana Outrigger, Kahana Reef, Pohailani and Kahana Beach Resort have protected their shoreline with “some form of armoring,” Owens said.

“At Pohailani and the next door neighbor, Kahana Reef, they’re completely without beach right now,” Owens added to the list of reasons for the beach nourishment project.

“While beach erosion is a natural process, armoring can speed up that process (of beach loss) and impact neighbors as well”, she said.

“Hololani is next to Pohailani, so the waves wrap in around the Pohailani seawall and focus all the energy on Hololani, which is one reason why they’re having rapid erosion. Now their building is also threatened, and there is a proposal to armor. That’s the classic domino effect.”

Buika agreed: “Building more seawalls will just extend the problem farther down. Royal Kahana is the one next to Hololani; they are worried about the effects of the (proposed Hololani) seawall on their beach.”

“We’re beginning to look at alternatives,” Buika advised, “because we’ve lost so many beaches in the past.”

Owens advises that a regional solution will be most effective.

“So when we’re talking about restoring the beach and looking at what’s the best possible solution – that not only protects Hololani but benefits all the condos within this beach cell – we have to look at restoring the beach for all of the condos.”

The objective of the study “is to engage consultant services to complete a study that will fully explore the feasibility of regional beach restoration for the Kahana Bay shoreline by replenishing sand that has been lost from the beach to the nearshore area.”

Owens stressed the need for action: “We have eroding beaches; we have property threatened; we have to find solutions.”

“This is chronic erosion,” Owens observed. “We’ve studied historic erosion trends all throughout the Hawaiian islands. We’ve seen our beaches narrowing and our shorelines retreating for as long as we’ve been able to study them. Kahana Bay is like the rest of the island, and so we know what the erosion rate is. On average, the Kahana shoreline has been steadily marching in the landward direction at the rate of .7 to .8 feet per year over time since the early 1900s.”

“Basically, Kahana Bay is threatened by seawalls,” Buika cautioned. “If we don’t be careful, we’ll wall-in all of the Hawaiian Islands; I mean literally, I mean we’re having constant erosion, and so we need to find alternatives. So the one logical alternative that just about everyone agrees with is beach nourishment.

“This study is to understand an alternative to hardening the Hololani shoreline by protecting Hololani and its environs by putting the beach back,” the county planner added.

“The mayor included $320,000 in his budget, and the council approved $160,000, with the proviso that the community contribute (matching funds),” Owens said, noting the financial particulars.

One of the study tasks is to investigate and identify offshore sand sources.

Buika doesn’t consider this a problem. In the past, “there was tons of sand on Kahana Bay and a wide beach; that’s why they built all those condos there. Where’d the sand go? It’s offshore; we’ve been diving off there; there are sand pockets,” he said.

“We’re basically talking about recycling the sand back onto the beach and restoring it to a previous condition when the beach was wider. We can rebuild the beach, and that beach has been protecting all of these buildings for a long, long, long time,” Owens remarked.

“Our coastal engineering consultant will not only look for sand, but they’re going to model all the oceanographic conditions. Then they are going to provide us with variations of beach configurations. They’re going to look at many different scenarios, and then they’re going to propose to us what they think would be the most effective,” Owens said.

Owens is optimistic.

“What is really awesome is that over the last year we have made really positive progress. We have the mayor on our side, the planning director, and the condo owners are becoming very aware. They’re all interested in looking at the alternatives; they really want to know what is possible,” Owens explained.

The consultant has been selected.

Once the contract has been formalized, the name of the consultant will be announced and the feasibility study will be launched by the end of January. The consultant has nine months to complete the study.

Buika is also positive.

“The beach has protected these condos since they were built. The beach protects all kinds of oceanfront development, because it’s a natural system; that’s how it works.

“Obviously, there’s erosion; but if we can put sand back and then maintain it, we can buy time – there’s ten, 20, 30 years of healthy beach system out there,” he projected.