Monday, July 14, 2003

A low jetty has been constructed in the waters of Mauna Lahilahi Beach Park in Makaha in hopes of halting beach erosion at the Makaha Surfside condos. Part of the eroded beach fronting the condos has large sandbags in place, filled over with trucked-in sand.

Slowing the
sands of time

Stopping beach erosion
may save a Makaha condominium

When Jim Poorbaugh bought two Makaha Surfside condominium units last year, he knew it was something of a gamble.

The ocean had eroded 60 feet of beach since 1972 and was regularly lapping at the chain-link fence that separates the condos from the city's undeveloped Mauna Lahilahi Beach Park.

Over the past few years, the condo owners association, then the city, has placed and replaced sandbags to protect the building.

Maybe that's why he got both units for $35,000 fee simple, Poorbaugh said Saturday.

But now that the city has built a rock breakwater offshore and is replenishing the rocky shore with sand, Poorbaugh is optimistic. He heard some units in the building sold recently for $73,000 and $85,000.

"It's wonderful," Poorbaugh said of the work that may save the 30-something-year-old complex from washing out to sea. And the renewed beach, he said, "is going to be quite an asset to the park" when the city develops it.

Already, as word of the new sand spreads, more neighborhood youngsters are coming to the beach, he said.

Bob Benson, an owner-resident who has spearheaded efforts for a decade to get the beach replenished, said he is relieved the work is finally being done.

Jim Poorbaugh, left, a member of the Makaha Surfside owners association board of directors, is optimistic that city efforts to build a rock breakwater and replenish sand will save the complex. He is with Chris Martin, past association president.

Contractor Richard Namba was awarded an $800,000 city contract for the work two years ago but was unable to start work until this year because of multiple permit requirements.

The 325-foot-long breakwater is 10 feet tall, with about half its 2-ton stones underwater, owner-resident Chris Martin said. The breakwater was built between May 5 and June 20, and sand placement began June 23, he said.

On Saturday condo residents Nathan Souvana, 12, and Shane Haas, 16, gave enthusiastic approval to the beach restoration as they swam in the recently formed lagoon.

Sunbather Ashley Watabayashi, 16, said the sand "is definitely better than the rocks."

"We think the city and contractor have done a wonderful job," Martin said.

Before the work began, "you couldn't be standing here," he said, pointing to the sand under his feet just outside the condo fence line.

"It's gorgeous," Poorbaugh said. "The question is, Does it work?"

The winter high surf may answer that question.


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