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State and county failing to protect our beaches

By Staff | Dec 20, 2018

Policies to conserve and enhance beaches, public access and coastal open space are failing in Hawaii, according to a recently published study by University of Hawaii at Manoa researchers.

Read more at www.hawaii.edu/news/2018/12/10/failure-to-protect-beaches-rising-sea-level/.

Chip Fletcher, associate dean and professor of earth sciences at the UH Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, a senior author on the study, spoke recently in West Maui on the subject of managed retreat from the coastline.

He explained, “The loss of beaches because of one seawall after another is a perfect case of agencies failing to track the accumulated impact of armoring the shoreline.”

There are examples around the state, with properties from Kahana to Oahu’s North Shore suffering serious erosion.

“If you want beaches in the future, you are going to have to allow the beaches to migrate landward, which means that our homes are now in the wrong place, our roads are now in the wrong place, and we need to figure out an exit strategy – a way to get out of the way,” Fletcher said.

Specialists in coastal erosion, sea level rise and urban planning concluded that coastal zone management practices in the state, and nationally, will require new policies – or more effective ways for implementing existing policies – in a future characterized by accelerating sea level rise.

The study notes the importance of Hawaii’s beaches for economic, environmental and cultural purposes.

Local government needs to do a better job implementing effective policies and regulations to ensure their conservation.

The UH researchers hope Hawaii leaders will read the study and take action.

“The purpose of our study is not to point fingers at Hawaii’s coastal zone managers. We don’t want to be hard on the people. We want to be hard on the problem. The state’s political leaders, CZM managers and stakeholders should use the information in this study to update policies so that beach conservation is achieved and to develop sea level rise adaptation strategies,” said Fletcher.