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Environmentalists, engineers urge local leaders to prepare for coastal erosion

Feb. 28, 2022
Department of Land and Natural Resources
Feb. 28, 2022

A group of environmentalists, engineers and academics have urged state leaders and community members to take steps in addressing coastal erosion.

Coastal erosion is becoming a bigger threat to Hawaiʻi’s coastlines, including one of the most iconic coasts in the world — Oʻahu’s North Shore.

"It also has some extremely threatened private property, public infrastructure that threatens including Kamehameha Highway. And it also has examples of solutions that have already been put into place, such as the dune restoration at Sunset Beach Park and the relocation of the bike path," said Lauren Blickley, Surfrider Foundation’s Hawaiʻi Regional Manager.

The foundation, UH Sea Grant, and engineering firm SSFM International formed the North Shore Coastal Resilience Working Group to address the future of coastal management.

Blickley said the group focused on the North Shore as a starting point to discuss coastal management because it has recreational and cultural significance.

Some community concerns include a lack of options and publicly shared guidelines for homeowners impacted by erosion.

They also said there is no long-term vision for the area.

"One of the biggest things that came out of this was establishing a statewide managed retreat program utilizing the North Shore as a pilot area. So I think that, and having an interagency coordination ensuring that the state and the county are connecting and talking with each other, with the erosion response in Hawaiʻi, which has largely been reactionary and piecemeal," Blickley said.

Although the recommendations are specific to the North Shore, Blickley said it could be a starting point for similar conversations in other communities. But she said these are long-overdue discussions.

"We know we don't have any more time. We're kind of out of time. We should have been having these discussions and these actions 20 years ago. So we really see this as a catalyst for these next steps. And even though it's a starting point, we've truly identified some key pieces that can be implemented immediately," she told HPR.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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