Frustrated landowners push back against state’s ‘managed retreat’ approach to rising seas
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Citing advances in erosion control technologies, a coalition of oceanfront property owners are urging the state to give them more weapons in their battle against beach erosion.
“There are numerous scientific techniques that are available that are proven to preserve the shoreline and preserve the beaches,” said attorney Bernie Bays, who represents the Shoreline Preservation Coalition.
Bays made his comments during a Senate Water and Land Committee hearing last week.
“It’s heartbreaking when we see somebody’s home damaged by the ocean. But more importantly, when a home is damaged by the ocean that means that beach in front of that home has already been lost.”
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With the sea level around Hawaii expected to rise by more than 3 feet over the next 80 years, the counties are implementing strategies such as increased setbacks for future shoreline construction.
But they aren’t allowing owners to build sea walls and other barriers.
Landowners said this “managed retreat” is the wrong move.
“Allowing counties to implement regulations that force owners to retreat or to not allow them to reasonably repair or protect their property ... is a recipe for disaster,” said attorney Duane Fisher, who also represents property owners.
But state officials and climate change experts said barriers such as sea walls will destroy the state’s beaches.
“We are now at a point where there’s been lost nearly one quarter of the beaches in the state. If you want beaches in the future, we’re going to have to let erosion take place and land loss take place because sea level rise is an unstoppable fact,” said Chip Fletcher, dean of the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.
Dawn Chang, chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said her department also opposes the bill.
“Its result would be to elevate private property rights at the expense of the public trust resources,” she said.
The Senate’s Water and Land Committee decided to hold off on the bill for now, allowing for further discussion this session.
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