Sidewalk and trees falling into ocean at popular Maui beach, prompting growing calls for action

“I’ve never seen erosion get to the extent that it undermined and broke off the sidewalk."
Published: Sep. 24, 2022 at 5:44 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 24, 2022 at 10:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Following a very high tide Friday, a portion of the sidewalk and trees are falling into the ocean at Kaanapali Beach in an alarming situation residents say is long overdue for attention.

Drone footage by Maui resident Tiare Lawrence illustrated the extent of the problem.

“I’m just afraid of more of these temporary solutions that clearly do not work,” said Lawrence.

Chip Fletcher, interim dean of the University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, said this erosion is the worst he has seen.

“I’ve never seen erosion get to the extent that it undermined and broke off the sidewalk there,” said Fletcher.

The UH professor said some of the sandbags along the shoreline are from a similar erosion event about 20 years ago. “And local hotels responded by putting in literally tens of thousands of sandbags,” added Fletcher. “Now with the new erosion coming out, they have been buried in sand since then.”

Fletcher said the worsening erosion is nature signaling that sea level rise wants the shoreline to move where the buildings and sidewalks are, and the community needs to pull back on developed assets.

“Right now is literally the time when it’s most affordable and easiest for us to get engaged in managed retreat,” he said. “Figuring that out is a problem, but we’re not the only community in the world that has this issue.”

“Literally every coastal community does.”

And residents like Lawrence stand by Fletcher’s call to retreat.

“We can’t wait another 50 years to fix something that should have been fixed 40 years ago,” said Lawrence. “It’s just very disheartening and for me, I want my children to be able to enjoy the beaches that I grew up on.”

DLNR is proposing a restoration project for Kaanapali Beach to combat the issue, but Fletcher said it’s a temporary solution that would buy the state up to about ten years.

Hawaii News Now reached out to DLNR for comment.