10 WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE
Every day through year's end, the Star-Bulletin will recognize 10 who changed Hawaii this year. Some were controversial, others shunned the spotlight. But all made a difference.
Resident fought to save beaches
HAENA, Kauai » In 1999, Caren Diamond brought her kids to the beach on Kauai's North Shore and found their favorite spot was shrinking. It wasn't the high surf or erosion; it was naupaka planted by a new property owner.
The fight to get her beach back led all the way to the state Supreme Court -- and a landmark ruling in October that changed the way the Department of Land and Natural Resources should mark the shoreline.
Diamond, a chef and landscaper, has spent the past six years fighting with the DLNR over its use of the vegetation line to determine the shoreline, which is used by homeowners to determine how far from the ocean a house should be set back.
And this year, the Hawaii Supreme Court agreed.
In the unanimous opinion, the high court said using "artificially planted vegetation in determining the certified shoreline encourages private landowners to plant and promote salt-tolerant vegetation to extend their land farther makai, which is contrary to the objectives and policies of state law."
While officials at DLNR said their workers had already changed the way they certify shorelines, using other factors, environmentalists hailed the opinion as a groundbreaking decision for public access.
Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake said state law defines the property line and the shoreline setback the same way: the highest wash of the waves at the highest tide during the high-swell season.
The next case determining property rights along the shoreline will surely use this case as precedent, Moriwake added.
There is still no safe lateral access along portions of Kauai's North Shore, Diamond said, and she is still policing the DLNR workers to see if they use the new rules to determine the shoreline. None have come up since the ruling, she added.
She is also watching a bill related to setbacks making its way through county government. The bill would push houses farther back from the shoreline.
"The time for action is now," Diamond added. "The beaches are going fast."