Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story!
The Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources (DLNR) has been battling the problem for years, but in the tussle between beaches and barriers, beaches are losing. Oahu’s beaches are shrinking — and the seawalls, rock barriers, and sand-filled beach “burritos” that line parts of the coastline are speeding the process.
It’s time for the state to create a comprehensive beach protection plan, and it’s past time to implement updated rules and strengthen enforcement, consistent with DLNR’s mission to preserve and protect. Hawaii’s oceans, beaches and shores.
The state has changed its practices over the past two years, prompted by a 2020 reporting series conducted by the Star-Advertiser in partnership with national investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica. Shortly thereafter, the DLNR’s Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL) began revising the rules for “emergency” approval of sandbags and burritos as barriers between structures and the sea, and these rules have been drafted. Landlords selling property along the coastline must also now disclose the risks of sea level rise, thanks to a law that came into force this year.
Nevertheless, the state did not address shoreline issues with due diligence.
Permit violations, such as failing to remove sandbags and burritos after emergency shore hardening permits expire, result in a hearing process that can take months or years. “Temporary” burritos, as well as illegally placed or expanded dykes or piles of rocks, can become seemingly permanent, despite notices of violation. Landowners exploit the process of challenging Molasses Slowness by appealing every decision; worse, some structures escape or fall off the radar of regulators.
Climate change and rising sea levels are now forcing the problem, and the problems of beach and shoreline erosion and flooded coastal areas are only expected to worsen.
The state must heed the urgency of the situation, move forward with an island-by-island analysis and a publicly approved plan to protect beaches and give islanders – including shoreline property owners – the ability to plan for the future. ‘coming.
Along with this process, the DLNR and the State Attorney General should overhaul the process for hearing contested cases, streamlining and expediting the steps so that it no longer serves as a surefire way to delay action indefinitely.
The problem is only getting worse.
Undisturbed, many Hawaiian beaches would naturally migrate to land, but when interventions such as beach burritos — long, oversized bags filled with sand, usually covered with thick plastic sheeting — are placed as barriers between a property and the encroaching coastline, the beaches simply disappear instead. The waves push the sand away from the beach, while the barriers keep the barrier sand mauka from replenishing what is lost.
Hawaii is also experiencing stronger storms and rising sea levels, which are wearing down beachfronts, and global warming will make these problems worse. It is now estimated that Oahu could lose 40% of its beaches by the middle of this century. It’s no problem to kick on the road.
The OCCL reports that it has largely stopped issuing emergency permits to place sandbags and burritos, while new rules for issuing emergency permits are currently under review by the bureau. of the Attorney General. OCCL Administrator Michael Cain told the Star-Advertiser earlier this summer that the proposed rules “differentiate between immediate emergencies and ongoing, unmanaged dangerous conditions.”
It’s a good start. Next, see the end of endless disputed cases, as the state grapples with the need for a plan of action that takes global warming into account.