State investigating after North Shore homeowner moves tons of sand in bid to protect property

An Oahu homeowner takes matters into his own hand and shored up his property against erosion.
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 12:16 AM HST|Updated: Apr. 12, 2022 at 12:20 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is investigating after a North Shore homeowner used an excavator to move tons of sand in what he says was a bid to protect his and his neighbors’ homes.

Homeowner Todd Dunphy acknowledged he took the action amid worsening erosion at Rocky Point Beach.

“I heard a crack the other day and I just went out (and said) I’m saving my house, I don’t care,” said Dunphy. “I’ll take the fine, whatever.” Dunphy said he paid about $200,000 to build up the sand near his home before a state land officer advised him Monday that unauthorized material will need to be removed.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources told Hawaii News Now they are currently investigating the activities that occurred over the weekend.

DLNR issued the following statement in the wake of the work:

“There are no current valid permits for emergency measures in this area, and numerous temporary emergency permits have expired, or activities were conducted that weren’t authorized under the permits. DLNR continues to be focused on protecting the public trust in beaches. The homeowners in this area, whose homes are built on sand berms that are needed to replenish the beach area, may ultimately need to move their homes to other locations away from the eroding coastline.”

In February, a neighboring home collapsed onto the beach.

Since then, Dunphy said the foundation of his home has been crumbling rapidly.

“I couldn’t walk out of my house, it was a 30-foot drop,” said Dunphy. “It started from this property next door all the way down to the left of me, every one of our properties was virtually on a cliff.”

Dunphy hopes his reinforcement will hold for at least a year.

But Chip Fletcher, chair of the Honolulu Climate Change Commission, said the measure might be as short-lived as a week. “We may not even see that land last through strong trade winds and the spring high tides that come that become especially high during the course of the summer,” Fletcher said.

He added it makes more sense to “figure out how we’re going to learn to live with water in these locations, either by raising the land and assets or by redeveloping them so that they are amenable to flooding and related to sea level rise.”

And it’s not just homes.

Economist Paul Brewbaker has done research for the state on which coastal roads will eventually need to move. “So the idea that there’s nowhere that they can go is just wrong,” said Brewbaker. “But it’s inevitable that we have to move the road, move the water supply, and put a damn sewer in there.”

“And that’s the public infrastructure role, the rest is private investment.”

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