Waikiki Beach widening project on hold

Published: Apr. 18, 2011 at 10:56 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 19, 2011 at 12:54 AM HST
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Diane Ward
Diane Ward

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) – The gentle waves that roll up the beach in Waikiki are part of the attraction. But they also help rob the beach of its greatest asset … sand.

The waves, longshore currents, and tides carry sand off the beach to deposits off-shore. So much has washed away there are places where tourists have just a few feet on which place towels and lie out in the sun.

"I'm kind of bummed out that there's only this small amount of area to lay out in and we had to build this damn to keep the water from coming up and getting us all wet," said Diane Ward, a visitor from Seattle who had built a mound around her towel to keep the advancing water away.

The State Department of Land and Natural Resources planned widen the beach by 37 feet between the Duke Kahanamoku Statue and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel by pumping sand from the off-shore deposits back to the beach. It is a $2.5 million project originally scheduled to have been finished by now. But the work has not started.

"And the reason for that is we had some delays in getting our permits. Putting a contract together was more complicated, more difficult, than I thought it would be. Now we have those permits, we have gotten those requests for bids out on the street, but we can't start the project now," said Sam Lemmo, DLNR Conservation and Coastal Lands Administrator.

Lemmo said the permits have now been secured and companies are bidding for the job, but it is too late in the spring for the work to begin because the summer swells have begun to arrive. The water is too rough.

"We have to stage construction equipment in the water on the South shore. Barges, dredging equipment and we can't stage when we have surfing waves there," Lemmo said.

The surf in Waikiki should subside by October, but the work will not begin then either. That is because the Asia Pacific Economic Conference will be held in Waikiki in November and the state does not want unsightly construction equipment and piles of sand on the beach while dignitaries from the APEC countries are in town.

The new start date for the replenishment project is December 1st, 2011.

Baring bad weather or mechanical failure the work is scheduled to take about 60 days. If all goes according to the updated schedule, the job will be finished by early February 2012.

The Waikiki Improvement Association did a study in 2008 that concluded the state would lose almost $2 billion in visitor spending annually if Waikiki Beach were to vanish. It has made the replenishment project its top priority.

In late 2006 the state pumped10-thosuand cubic yards of sand from off-shore deposits back to the beach on the Diamond Head side of the statue. The beach was much wider after the work was done, but erosion is slowly taking that sand back to sea. Lemmo told Hawaii News Now it is likely the state will have to periodically recover sand from off-shore deposits in order to keep Waikiki Beach healthy.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.