State calls upon HTA, hotels to help restore Waikiki Beach


POSTED: Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hawaii plans to widen part of Waikiki Beach with sand pumped in from offshore.

The sand in the area has been eroding about 1 to 2 feet per year, leading water to rush into seawalls and a hotel restaurant bar at peak high tide.

The restoration project would cost between $2 million and $3 million. On Friday, the state appealed to the Hawaii Tourism Authority—a quasi-state agency that promotes Hawaii to the world—to help fund the effort.

“;The beach is in dire need of repair right now,”; Sam Lemmo, administrator of the state Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, told the agency's board on Friday. “;But we're a little bit under on the money.”;

The project would pump sand from a spot offshore to a stretch from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel to the Duke Kahanamoku statue.

The state has already set aside $1.5 million and hopes the tourism authority will provide about $1 million.

It also hopes Kyo-ya Hotel and Resorts—the owner of the Royal Hawaiian, the Moana Surfrider and other Waikiki hotels—will contribute $500,000.

The plan would take 25,000 cubic yards of sand to the beach using a submerged pump and pipeline. This would add about 40 to 50 feet to the beach, doubling the beach width in some areas and tripling it in others.

The same process would likely need to be repeated every seven to eight years to keep the beach sufficiently wide.

“;This is not a one-time project. This is not a long-term solution by any means. This is what I could consider to be maintenance,”; said Dolan Eversole, a coastal geologist with the University of Hawaii Sea Grant program.

The state is currently preparing an environmental impact statement for the project. Lemmo told the board he hopes to issue a contract by September or October and have pumping begin in the months afterward.

The state used a similar method to replenish the sand at Kuhio Beach—a stretch of Waikiki next to the current target area—in 2006. That effort pumped only 10,000 cubic yards of sand, less than half of the current proposal.

Eversole said Waikiki naturally has a narrow beach, but humans have been adding sand to the shoreline to make it wider for decades.

The earliest beach replenishment projects are believed to date to the 1920s. The first well-documented case was in 1939.

The most ambitious efforts were in 1951, when more than 100,000 cubic yards were brought ashore, and in 1972, when more than 80,000 cubic yards were added to the shoreline.

Much of this sand was brought in from outside Waikiki, including other Oahu beaches in places like Waimanalo, Nanakuli and Mokuleia. All this outside sand has made it impossible to know what “;native”; Waikiki sand truly looks like, Eversole said.

Replenishment efforts have been minimal since 1975, contributing to today's relatively narrow condition.

Officials say the replenishment effort would also help revive the reef by removing excess sediment from the ocean floor.

Rick Egged, president of the Waikiki Improvement Association, said the replenishment project was vital to Waikiki, a district he said adds $2 billion to the state economy each year.

“;Waikiki Beach is the single most valuable resource economically in the state,”; Egged said. “;It's of critical importance that we all work together to maintain that resource.”;