Getting more sandKIHEI, Maui -- South Maui resident Robert Colopy smiles as he stands on a restored beach fronting his home. Truckloads of sand have been brought from a half-mile away only days ago, through a government-sponsored project.
in Maui shoes
Beach restoration is getting
more serious attention as
property prices rise
Other states share their beach battles
By Gary Kubota
"It's the best environmental solution," said Colopy, president of the Halama Street Homeowners Association. "It is the most economical solution."
As beachfront land becomes more expensive, the idea of restoring eroded beaches is growing more attractive in Maui County, especially when those beaches have a number of public accesses, as in the case of Halama Street.
Beach replenishment is also becoming a major focus of talks and studies on Maui.
Scientists and government officials will be attending the National Beach Preservation Conference in Kaanapali through Thursday
The U.S. House Transportation Committee has passed a resolution supported by U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, requesting a study into the feasibility of providing beach restoration and shoreline protection in Kihei.
Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana said beach restoration protects not only homes and vacation resorts, but also the public's use of a resource.
"I support beach nourishment because it's an inexpensive way to provide beaches for residents and visitors," Apana said.
Apana administration officials point out that an acre of beachfront land at Palauea recently cost the county about $4.5 million, compared to $5,000 to transport sand to the Halama Street beach from stored piles at the Veteran of Foreign Wars center.
The relocated sand, about 3,500 cubic feet, was originally excavated from dredging that took place a few years ago at the Kihei boat ramp harbor, several miles south of Halama Street.
State and county officials say they don't know how long the sand will stay at the Halama Street beachfront location.
But there seems to be some scientific information emerging that justifies relocating sand within south Maui.
John Rooney, an oceanographer who has been studying aerial photographs of the Kihei coastline, said in the last 100 years, the amount of total sand along the south Maui coast appears to have increased.
He said the beachfront has been extended up to 94 meters along the coastline between the Veteran of Foreign Wars center and the offices housing the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Rooney said the frequency and intensity of Kona storms seems to affect the migration of sand along south Maui.
He said a rock groin, built to improve drainage near Lipoa Street in Kihei before 1950, appears to be also capturing the sand from the north and limiting the migration of sand south toward Halama Street.
Colopy hopes the studies will eventually lead to long-term solutions, including a way to lessen the impact of the Lipoa rock groin extending into the ocean.
"Long-term, what they have to do is straighten the shoreline," he said. "You don't get erosion if the natural flow of sand is allowed to migrate down the beach."
Colopy said beach restoration should be seen as an investment by the county because it increases the value of nearby properties and, ultimately, county property taxes.
David Goode, County Public Works deputy director, said the county will continue to look for opportunities to replenish beaches with sand.
KAANAPALI, Maui -- A five-day national conference focusing on beach restoration and coastal erosion is running through Thursday at the Royal Lahaina Resort.
Other states share their beach battles
The National Beach Preservation Conference is sponsored by a number of government and nonprofit groups, including the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association and the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program.
Robert Mullane of Sea Grant says experts will be sharing their experience about beach restoration in other parts of the United States, such as California, Florida and North Carolina.