Erosion rulings send clear message: Landowners must come to terms with rising seas

With recent decisions, the state Land Board has sent a clear message to shoreline landowners: They’ll have to start dealing with rising seas and shouldn’t expec
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 5:13 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 13, 2023 at 5:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With recent decisions, the state Land Board has sent a clear message to shoreline landowners: They’ll have to start dealing with rising seas and shouldn’t expect government bailouts.

That’s an about-face for the state.

Nine years ago, as the reality of worsening erosion sunk in, Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s administration promised to pay half of what it would cost to replenish Kaanapali Beach with sand dredged from offshore.

But that plan now faces a tidal wave of opposition.

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Among dozens of opponents to speak at a Land Board meeting Friday was 12-year-old Kaliko Kalani Teruya, a Lahania Intermediate student who delivered her testimony in Olelo Hawaii and then translated for the board.

“Marine species who live in that area will be affected because their homes will be stolen and it’s a waste of money because the sand will just wash away, which means this will have to happen multiple times,” she said.

The deal required the Land Board’s approval to move forward even though a contractor was already chosen for the $9.8 million project, with the state and Kaanapali Operations Association splitting the cost.

The board refused to give their blessing.

Maui member Doreen Napua Canto repeated the concerns about the dredging damaging the offshore environment for the benefit of the resorts.

“I am not against beach restoration,” she said. “I am against desecration.”

That decision came right after the board imposed a $188,000 fine on a Punaluu homeowner ― unless he removed his house and left the property empty.

Land Board Chair Dawn Chang said the board is taking a more aggressive position.

“I think what we’re looking at is we need people to take us seriously to recognize that they need to look at other tools and options,” Chang said. “And consider that it’s not just about perhaps protecting that property.”

For the Kaanapali resort, that likely means making room for the rising tide without help from taxpayers.

Maui state Sen. Angus McKelvey testified against the 2014 deal because the resort can afford to find an acceptable plan without a taxpayer subsidy.

“If this is something that is going to benefit primarily them, then this should be something that they should be spearheading themselves without the use of public funds,” McKelvey said.

Any new plan for the shoreline will also require coming back to a Land Doard that does not see fighting Mother Nature as an option, Chang said.

“It is not going to get better,” Chang said. “We’re not going to see an improvement, and the conditions of shoreline erosion, it is going to get probably worse, it’s going to be more severe.”

Wayne Hedani, president of the Kaanapali Operations Association, said his board was meeting late Monday afternoon and needed time to reassess where they go from here.