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Friday, January 14, 2000

State to pursue federal
aid to control beach erosion

By Treena Shapiro


Federal funds may help save Hawaii's beaches, if the state can take advantage of them.

One-quarter of Oahu's beaches have been lost due to coastal erosion and degradation over the past 70 years, said Sam Lemmo, manager of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Coastal Lands Program. Maui has lost almost 30 percent of its coastline.

The department now has $250,000 in legislative funding to put toward restoration efforts, and yesterday they discussed federal funding with Howard Marlowe, president of the American Coastal Coalition, a nonprofit national advocate for coastal communities.

The federal program now is geared toward East Coast erosion caused by storms, and it will take time and effort to adjust the federal program to meet Hawaii's needs, Marlowe said. But it helps that Hawaii is already in the beginning stages of coastal restoration.

Controlling beach erosion will help protect waterfront property, preserve species which live on the coastline and prevent a loss of tourism, Marlowe said.

The state's current efforts, such as those at Lanikai Beach on Oahu and Honokowai on Maui, will help position it for federal funding.

"I think the state has already started out a process and provided a framework in which that discussion can take place," Marlowe said.

While natural factors and rising sea levels account for some of the loss, human factors -- such as developing too close to the coastline and building sea walls -- play a significant part, according to Lemmo.

"We can't control natural factors, but we can control the human element," he said.

The state's plan is to start several projects instead of committing to one large one, Lemmo said.

"Rather than putting all our eggs in one basket, (we'll start) a variety of projects in different locations. We'll see what falls out as a viable project," he said.

Lemmo said he's up for the challenge of obtaining federal funds. "It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of networking, but we're going to do as much as possible to avail ourselves of these funds," he said.

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