On Oahu’s North Shore, a summer of big swells and disappearing beaches

On Oahu's North Shore, a summer of big swells and disappearing beaches
Temporary measures are being taken to protect property from worsening erosion along Oahu's North Shore. (Image: Ryan De Seixas-Ryzone Media)
Temporary measures are being taken to protect property from worsening erosion along Oahu's North Shore. (Image: Ryan De Seixas-Ryzone Media)
Erosion could get only worse as winter surf starts rolling in. (Image: Sean Davey Photography/Facebook)
Erosion could get only worse as winter surf starts rolling in. (Image: Sean Davey Photography/Facebook)

PUPUKEA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Beach erosion on the North Shore happens every year, but residents who have lived there for decades say it's never been so bad.

Many say the waves are now eating away at their properties — and that's prompting the state to take action.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources says sea level rise, a summer of big swells from tropical cyclones and other forces of nature are causing the sand to wash away like never before. That's why they've granted an emergency authorization to six homeowners at Ehukai Beach to allow them to take action to stabilize their properties.

Jeannie Martinson is one of the six property owners whose homes qualify for emergency assistance from the state, allowing them to install temporary soft erosion control systems on the sand below.

Her backyard is now almost directly above the ocean.

"When we chose to live here, you accept the possibilities of big surf and erosion," she said.

"We have lost almost all of our landscape, but some of my neighbors have lost more."

Dramatic aerial video shot earlier this week shows some property vanishing along Ehukai Beach and trees — some more than 60 years old — succumbing to the waves.

Northshore lifeguard Capt. Vitor Marcal has been patrolling the shoreline for more than three decades and said he's never seen anything like this. Neither have people who've been here even longer.

"Erosion is bigger than before and we noticed that the sand is not coming back that quick," he said.

Already, the lifegaurd tower at Ehukai Beach has had to be moved back 25 feet. Some beach access has also been restricted.

"We want everybody to be safe. There is a lot of erosion this time. It's very easy to approach the berm and the sand gives in and all of the sudden you just fall and go into the water," he said.

Meanwhile, there aren't a lot of viable solutions to solve the problem. The temporary measures from DLNR might not make a big difference.

And for now, it's a waiting game to see if some of the sand that went away comes back.

What's needed are strong westerly swells that could replenish a lot of the sand along these beaches. But with winter coming and the possibility of North easterly swells battering the coast, things could get even worse.

And with the beach all but gone that's got property owners bracing for more tough choices.

"I've lived here for 50 years almost now and I love living here," Martinson said. "I care about the beach and I want to stay."

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