Severe Erosion Eats Up Kailua Beach

Keala Kadooka
Keala Kadooka
Chip Fletcher
Chip Fletcher
Benna Ball
Benna Ball

By Mari-Ela David

KAILUA (KHNL) -- Will it soon all be gone? KHNL's Earth and Sea Project: Going Green in Hawaii continues with a look at severe erosion swallowing one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawaii.

University of Hawaii researchers say the shoreline at Kailua Beach is receding at a potentially dangerous rate. They haven't pinpointed the exact reason for the erosion but they say global warming plays a role.

Roots exposed to the point where giant trees lose grip and fall at Kailua Beach, and cement blocks buried 30 years ago, also exposed.

"I just can't believe how much sand is missing. This is crazy," said Keala Kadooka, a former Kailua resident.

"Before there were not any banks. Now they have the banks that go like this, before it was just a gradual going down like that," said Benna Ball of Kailua.

The ocean has dug these blocks out before, back in the 90's. But researchers say the beach healed itself within six months. This time, a year and a half has passed and still no signs of repair.

"This is the worst erosion we've seen here in 20 years," said Chip Fletcher, a University of Hawaii professor and Chair of the Hawaii Coastal Group.

Fletcher says part of the problem is the global sea level is rising.

"It's nearly doubled from what it did in the 20th century," he said.

Another factor: For decades, sand has been bulldozed to clear the mouth of the Kaelepulu stream, then piled on top of the sand dunes. Researchers say that has stripped the shoreline of sand that normally would be brought back to the beach.

"In a sense, it's like mining the beach. The erosion now might be in part a response to the ocean trying to reclaim that sand by eroding the sand dune," said Fletcher.

Fletcher says it's impossible to measure just how much climate change and sand management play a role.

"Maybe we have to take care of the aina and it'll come back to us," said Kadooka.

If the sea continues to carve this shoreline, beachgoers' safety could be at stake.

Fletcher says an immediate solution would be to take the sand that clogs up Kaelepulu stream, and put it back on the beach rather than piling it on top of the sand dunes. He says city leaders are now looking into it.