As sea levels rise, short-term fixes along Hawaii beaches might hasten erosion, study says

As sea levels rise, short-term fixes along Hawaii beaches might hasten erosion, study says
Homes are nearing the edges as erosion eats away at the Makaha shoreline. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new study says poor policies and oversight have contributed to erosion on Oahu, and calls on government officials to improve beach management — and make tough decisions — in a future of worsening sea level rise.

The study, from a team of University of Hawaii researchers, focused on the section of windward Oahu coastline from Hauula to Punaluu.

Erosion in the area has dramatically worsened in recent years.

A large driver of that erosion: A series of sea walls and shoreline hardening efforts put in place from 1928 to 2015.

Nearly 20 percent of beach has been lost in the area, while 55 percent of beaches are getting more narrow.

Sea walls are seen as a temporary solution to protect properties. But researchers say they’re actually causing more problems.

And the scope and scale of those problems will only worsen as sea levels continue to rise in a warming world.

“If you want beaches, you are going to have to allow the beach to migrate landward, which means our homes are now in the wrong place, our roads are now in the wrong place, and we need to figure out an exit strategy,” said Chip Fletcher, an associate dean and professor of earth sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and senior author on the study.

“This is not being about hard on people or agencies. It’s about being hard on the problem.”

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