Engineers hope high-tech sandbags will keep the beach in Waikiki from disappearing

Updated: Nov. 29, 2019 at 4:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A fresh round of repairs to Hawaii’s most famous beach have been completed ― and engineers hope their latest idea will do more to help the shoreline from washing away.

Over the last three weeks, and at a cost of roughly $700,000, engineers worked to install a 95-foot sandbag groin at Waikiki Beach, along with hauling in tons of new sand to help replenish it.

It’s one piece of a much larger project that’ll start next spring on the Royal Hawaiian groin.

“The thing I’d like to emphasize is how critical the Royal Hawaiian groin is. It holds all the sand in place from the Kuhio Beach basins to the groin," said Rick Egged, President of the Waikiki Beach Special Improvement District Association. "Minus that groin, the sand would erode very rapidly,”

Known the world over, Waikiki’s famed beaches help fuel the state’s economy, bringing in an estimated $2 billion every year.

Egged calls it an asset worth protecting.

“It’s an artificial beach,” he said. “So it’s going to take the work of man and money to maintain it.”

An overhaul started earlier this month, with strategically-placed sandbags installed as a form of erosion control.

“What’s different about this project is the material,” said Dolan Eversole, Waikiki Beach Management Coordinator. “It’s a geotextile material. It’s extremely durable. We’re expecting it to last up to 10 years. It could last 20 years.”

Project officials say repairs on the Royal Hawaiian groin will be much more involved. The total cost for that project, and for regularly bringing in more sand to keep the beach full, will exceed $12 million.

Taxpayers are footing about 70 percent of the bill, while the Waikiki Improvement Association covers the rest.

When that’s wrapped up, state officials say there’s still more to do.

“We have a project planned in about a year and a half to bring in additional sand into Waikiki from offshore to stabilize the beaches. And we’ll have to keep doing this continuously to keep up with the rates of sand loss and combat sea level rise,” said Sam Lemmo, the administrator of the state DLNR’s Office Conservation and Coastal Lands Administrator.

The state says its developed a partnership with the University of Hawaii to do a weekly beach monitoring program. They’ll be responsible for tracking the movement of the sand over a seasonal basis.

The data they collect with help determine what other work needs to be done.

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