'Worst' erosion in years on Sunset Beach forces tough decisions

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

SUNSET BEACH, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Erosion on Sunset Beach is a perennial problem.

But this winter, the issue has become especially worrisome.

On Tuesday, lifeguards at the beach had to move their tower back about 10 feet as waves ate away at the beach.

The tower was about 4 to 5 feet from the edge of a cliff created as waves washed away the sand.

"This year I think is the worst one I've ever seen. Last year was not this bad. This year, you can see the size of the erosion," said Capt. Vitor Marcal of the Ocean Safety & Lifeguard Services Division.

With monster waves expected to roll in, several homes along the shoreline are also in danger.

"We're all on pins and needles on how much more it's going to dredge, how much more property we're going to lose. People say it's reciprocal, it happens every year. It does, but not to the extent that we see it now," said Rocky Point resident John Salanoa.

Previous swells have already washed away a lot of the sand in front of the houses.

"We're very concerned. It's gotten worse and worse through the years. I've never seen the sand disappear as rapid and as steady as it has this year," said Salanoa. 

Organizers of the Billabong Pipe Masters also had to make changes at Ehukai Beach due to the incoming swell.

"Today was just a matter of looking up anything low-lying -- barricades, low floors at the beach marshal, camera towers and those sorts of things -- and removing those off the beach, removing stairs that lead up to the tower, that sort of thing to eliminate floating objects," explained Jodi Wilmott, general manager of World Surf League Hawaii.

And things could get even worse.

A High Surf Warning is up for Oahu's North Shore, and forecasters are expecting wave heights of up to 40 feet.

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