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LETTERS for the April 19 issue

By Staff | Apr 19, 2018

Allowing seawall will set a bad precedent

For the first time in almost a decade, the state is allowing the construction of a 400-foot-long, football field-length seawall revetment for the Hololani Resort condominium in West Maui. Longtime community members are outraged with the decision. Granting permits and easements for this seawall would set a horrible precedent and initiate a domino effect, as flanking erosion pushes successive beachfront owners to replace sandbags and open beaches with increasingly hardened structures. In West Maui alone, seawalls have contributed to the loss of approximately four miles of beaches to coastal armoring.

On March 28, the Senate’s Water and Land Committee voted 3-2 to authorize the easement for the Hololani Resort seawall construction. Senators Riviere (North Shore) and Inouye (Hawaii Island) voted in opposition, noting that the same committee had just accepted the state Sea Level Rise Report, and the approval of a seawall would send the wrong message.

Most of the seawall supporters are Hololani condominium owners, and many, if not most, of the Hololani condominiums are Airbnb-type vacation rentals. Sen. Thielen, who voted for the seawall with reservations, spoke specifically to owners who newly moved to Hawaii and warned them that beach access is a public right.

Glenn Kamaka, a kupuna who flew from West Maui to attend several state hearings, took offense to Hololani Resort representatives’ statement that, “They will give public beach access.” As a Hawaiian whose family has fished the West Maui coastlines for generations, Kamaka said that you do not “give me” access. Besides, he has beach access, and what they are really giving him is access to their wall, which will be going out 20 feet onto state submerged lands.

The time is now for the state to act quickly and adopt managed retreat policies. Government officials must balance our natural tendency to persevere against the social and economic costs, and risks to personal safety, posed by continual development in vulnerable locations.

The reality is most resorts built in Napili to Kaanapali were built on sand dunes. In 2014, the Hololani Resort received approval from the Board of Land and Natural Resources to construct a seawall, which is contrary to state policy in general. Four years later, we know the ill effects of coastal armoring, much of which is documented in the SLR report the state adopted last year.

Now we have much more information that a seawall at this location is no more appropriate than any other location in Hawaii and will set bad policy for the future of Hawaii. The state needs to focus on building resilience today, but also prepare for the future.

This will require tough decisions. Some areas will be too vulnerable despite our best efforts to hold back the sea.

Infrastructure and homes will need to be moved away from the threat and the shore opened up to the public. The political obstacles to this strategy will be severe in many places, but consideration of them should begin now. Tourists come to Hawaii to enjoy our beaches, not our seawalls.

Rather than rely solely on coastal armoring structures, policy makers will need to turn increasingly to land use reform and a policy of managed retreat from the shorelines. These policies avoid disasters by building resilience, preventing or limiting coastal development in vulnerable locations, and reducing the impact of coastal hazards on infrastructure. Such proactive, non-structural solutions are often more cost-effective than coastal armoring over the long term, as they do not require ongoing maintenance, rebuilding or repair.

A long-term policy of managed retreat can limit a community’s exposure to coastal hazards, save lives and limit the expenditure of public funding on vulnerable infrastructure and response mechanisms. We need to think about our beaches and coastlines as one big interconnected ecosystem. The water and sand move with the currents, swells and seasons, all supporting a balance of life that has evolved together for thousands of years. When we disrupt that system by altering the shoreline, it impacts the entire coastline. Creating a structure to collect sand in one area will deplete sand in another.

I think the best that we can do is remove all the man-made structures that are disrupting this system and try to regain some type of natural balance again. Yes, that means retreating and removing buildings. Also keep in mind that the beautiful, coarse beach sand that we all love comes from coral reefs and parrot fish. Healthy coral reefs and uhu populations are beach-making machines, so we also need to focus on bringing back our coral reefs. Buildings can be moved – ecosystems cannot.

TIARE LAWRENCE. Candidate for State House, District 12


Support equal pay

On average, women are paid 80 cents on the dollar for the same work as men, and this inequality persists regardless of education level or industry. One thing is clear: women deserve better, and right now they’re not getting it.

I have fought for women’s equality my entire life, and I will keep fighting until the gender pay gap is closed. When women are paid unfairly, we all suffer.

In the Senate, I’ll continue fighting to ensure equal pay for equal work, but will you join me in signing my petition to demand equal pay for women?

Add your name by clicking here: petitions.signforgood.com/hirono-equal-pay-day. Together we can make progress that benefits all women.



West Maui residents caught between conflicting water rules

Over 1,000 West Maui residents, farmers and nurserymen are currently caught between the conflicting rules and pronouncements of state and county agencies. These 1,000-plus taxpayers, comprised of all ethnic origins, make their homes and livings on land deemed “Agricultural” by both state and county law. They are required to farm or provide agricultural output (something desperately needed on Maui), and have been required by Maui County to have Farm Plans approved before building or commencing agricultural operations.

These farms, nurseries and homesteads grow everything from taro, to tomatoes, to olives, to eggs and poultry, to fruits, vegetables and flowers. They require water to exist, but that water is being unilaterally withdrawn by yet another state agency, the Commission for Water Resource Management. This commission has ordered that 80 percent of the agricultural water from three West Maui streams be withdrawn from these communities! This action is being taken based on faulty data and without any advanced notification, due process, involvement of the communities affected or any time for those so adversely affected to comply or make alternative plans.

These multi-ethnic taxpayers are caught between a proverbial “rock and a hard place” with apparently no government agency or elected official willing to step forward and stop this madness. At a time when it is widely recognized that our precious islands need to become far less dependent on shipped-in food and other resources, we need to begin to grow more of what we consume and need here at home – not LESS.

What is needed is not a competition between communities or ethnic groups, but a cooperative approach to serving the needs of all constituents through dialog, sound facts, cooperation and a spirit of ALOHA!