homepage logo

Draft EIS published for Kahana Bay Erosion Mitigation project

By BY LOUISE ROCKETT - | May 7, 2021

This artistic rendering by Oceanit shows the proposed T-groin, widened beach and vegetated berm looking north from Pohaku Beach Park.

KAHANA — Under siege for decades, Kahana Bay has been confronted with the extreme consequences of sea level rise, adverse weather phenomena, seaside development and coastal armoring, resulting in the near-terminal loss of a most vital lifeline to the overall health of this delicate marine ecosystem — sand.

According to Chip Fletcher, associate dean for academic affairs and professor, Department of Earth Sciences, at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), University of Hawaii at Manoa, the shoreline along Kahana Bay has receded at an average rate of about one foot per year.

Kahana Beach is situated north of Honokowai and south of Napili. It is approximately 3,600 feet long and bounded by Kahana Stream to the north and Pohaku (S-Turns) Park to the south.

There are approximately 1,200 feet of permitted, temporary emergency structures currently in place, fronting at least eight properties, installed on a parcel-by-parcel basis over a number of years. The Kahana Bay coastline is identified as a sand beach of predominately calcareous material.

It is described as a landscaped commercial vacation region, complete with condominium rentals and properties, populated by mostly tourists and ocean recreational users.

A hui of nine Kahana properties has joined forces to establish the Kahana Bay Steering Committee (KBSC) to take action against this unrelenting onslaught, engaging the services of an engineering consulting firm, Oceanit, to help mitigate this chronic condition.

The nine condominiums and one residential parcel, from north to south, include Kahana Village, Kahana Outrigger, the Sadang Family Parcel, Kahana Reef, Pohailani, Hololani, Royal Kahana, Valley Isle, Sands of Kahana and Kahana Beach Resort.

On April 13, through its consultant Oceanit, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Kahana Bay Erosion Mitigation was submitted to the Hawaii Office of Environmental Quality Control for publication in the April 23 edition of The Environmental Notice.

The announcement briefly describes the proposed action “as a resilient solution to mitigate regional shoreline erosion using sand transported from offshore for beach nourishment and berm enhancement. Seven rock T-groins and one rock headland structure will be constructed to stabilize the beach. The beach will be restored to the approximate width that existed in 1975 and about 65 feet wider on average than current. Other benefits include six coves created in the nearshore area, addition of hard substrate and niche space for marine species, and preserving long-term water quality.”

The total project cost is estimated to be between $26 million to $40 million, including construction and maintenance costs over 50 years.

J.G. Andrews stressed the value of drafting the DEIS in consultation with the community, including cultural practitioners, ocean users, environmentalists and residents, among them Felimon Sadang, Glenn Kamaka and Ekolu Lindsey.

The DEIS observed the following: there was a general consensus amongst those interviewed that the existing shoreline erosion along Kahana Bay has produced significant negative impacts, and that some form of action is warranted to improve the existing conditions; however, several key participants expressed significant concern that the project will produce unacceptable impacts to nearshore water quality, marine habitat and Hawaiian traditional practices.

In an e-mail interview with the Lahaina News, Andrews concluded, “This project could serve as an example to the West Maui community on how the complex environmental challenges of climate change can be addressed with nature-based solutions that are designed on a regional scale and administered through collaborative public-private partnerships.

“We envision this collaborative approach to coastal erosion as a potential template for future coastal health projects, in addition to the many benefits it will have in Kahana Bay. The hope is that state and Maui stakeholders will understand the value in community- and region-driven solutions, displacing previous reliance on individual emergency structures and parcel-by-parcel solutions,” Andrews continued. “…the status quo of individual, temporary solutions can have knock-on effects to neighboring properties and areas in terms of erosion, flooding and so on. The approach used in the current Draft EIS accounts for environmental, cultural, and ocean stakeholders across the community, and we hope it leads to a new standard for coastal projects, along West Maui’s coastline and beyond.”

Numerous permits need to be granted by county, state and federal authorities before commencement of the proposed action, resulting in intense public and governmental scrutiny and community hearings.

The lengthy DEIS and instructions to submit comments can be found online in the April 23 edition of the Environmental Notice. The applicant is the Kahana Bay Steering Committee, and the Approving Agency is the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Statutory 45-day public review and comment period has commenced. Comments are due by June 7, 2021.