Kailua sand management plan hits snag

Published: Sep. 29, 2011 at 11:02 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 29, 2011 at 11:18 PM HST
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Bob Bourke
Bob Bourke
Fred Marumoto
Fred Marumoto
Dawn Crekmur
Dawn Crekmur

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

KAILUA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Scientists say is a great idea. Residents are overwhelmingly in favor. But a long anticipated project to slow erosion at Kailua Beach has stalled.

On Monday, September 26 the city used an excavator and front end loader to open the mouth of Kaelepulu Stream by removing thousands of cubic yards of sand from Kailua Beach where the stream intersects the beach. That sand was piled high in Kailua Beach Park. It sits atop other deposits of sand put there over the past several decades as the stream mouth has been opened repeatedly.

A few hundred yards away, near the Kailua boat ramp, erosion has reduced a once wide stretch of beach to just a sliver of sand. During high tide waves undermine vegetation pulling more sand and dirt into the ocean further reducing the size of the vanishing beach.

Coastal geologists and environmental scientists have long urged the city to slow the erosion by reintroducing sand from the mouth of the stream to the beach near the boat ramp.

"In general principal it's always a good idea to try to follow whatever Mother Nature would normally do. In this case Mother Nature would take the sand out of the stream and push it out onto the beach with a storm. So taking the sand from the stream mouth and putting it back on the beach where right now it is definitely need is a good idea," said Bob Bourke, an environmental scientist with Oceanit.

"By taking the sand out of the beach system, you are basically starving the beach of the sand," he added.

After years prodding by scientists, beach goers, and Kailua residents the city announced in August it would use sand from the stream mouth to replenish the beach near the boat ramp.

"I thought they were going to do that. I heard it on the news and I thought that's the best idea they've ever had," said Kailua resident Fred Marumoto who was jogging on the beach Thursday.

"It would be nice to have more sand, more beach," added Dawn Crekmur, an Aina Haina resident who was enjoying what's left of the beach with her children.

But there's a problem. The federal Clean Water Act allows sand to be picked up, but prevents it from being put back down below the high water mark without a special permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

The city, which owns the beach park and now has possession of the sand, could apply for a permit. So could the state which has jurisdiction below the high water mark.

But according to the corps, neither the city nor the state has sought a permit.

The city tells Hawaii News Now it will monitor the erosion for another month. If the beach does not begin to return on its own, the city says it will redistribute some of the sand on a narrow strip of land between the parking lot at the boat ramp and the high water mark on the beach below.

The hope is that some of that sand will slowly work its way toward the water and the beach will make a gradual recovery. But gradual may not be good enough. Scientists say time is a factor. The longer it takes to address the problem, the greater the probability the erosion will spread North and more of Kailua beach will vanish.

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