KAILUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new state law is creating friction between the City and County of Honolulu and Kailua residents who are concerned about their eroding beach.
Act 120 was signed into law this June. It prohibits removing sand from Hawai'i's coastlines with a few exceptions, including if it is used for the replenishment or protection of public shorelines, but only if the restoration efforts won't cause water quality issues.
Kailua residents are demanding answers after a dump truck filled with sand was spotted leaving Kailua Beach Park and heading to town. Residents say it was all the more suspect because of the Kuhio Beach erosion headlines at the same time.
"We have a lot of erosion and if we don't have sand to draw on then we're going to have to bring sand in from somewhere else too. It makes sense to keep it local," described Lisa Marten, a member of the Kailua Neighborhood Board.
City officials confirm they're taking sand from Kailua Beach and it's going to other parks, including municipal golf courses.
"The reason the administration made this decision is to protect the city taxpayer from having to pay for fines," explained Ikaika Anderson, the City Council Vice Chair, who represents District 3.
Anderson says state guidelines prohibit them from using the sand dredged mauka of the Kaelepulu stream bridge because it contains sediment and silt.
"The sand is in fact being used by the city at other city parks including golf courses, while that is true – it was not originally the desire of the city to do that. But because of state and Army Corps of Engineer guidelines, the city wants to ensure that we don't run afoul of any of those guidelines and face monetary fines, which ultimately have to be borne by our city tax payers. So erring on the side of caution the city had decided to utilize that sand at other locations under city jurisdiction," Anderson said.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources verifies the sand is unsuitable for erosion restoration because it could cause water discoloration.
"In this case you would probably experience a milky white color for extended periods of time. It would reduce visibility in the water. So that may not be good for lifeguards trying to rescue people who are in trouble. It may not be the best for the sea life – the turtle, the seals. It might not be good for the people who go there who like to snorkel and check out the coral and the aquatic resources. It's just not advisable to put that type of material on a beach like Kailua, and so we told the city to basically dispose of it in an upland site," described Sam Lemmo, the administrator for the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands within the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
City officials say there is a clear color and texture difference between the sand taken mauka of the Kaelepulu stream bridge and the sand dredged closer to the river mouth.
"It is almost a gray color and it has been found that the sediment content in that sand is too high for us to be able to legally reuse it on the beach," explained Ross Sasamura, the director and chief engineer of the city's Department of Facility Maintenance.
Sasamura says the city is saving money by repurposing the 7,000 cubic yards of material it can't use on the beach, but clarifies not all sand is being trucked away.
"We certainly do reuse all of the clean sand that we're able to from that stream mouth opening," Sasamura said. "We use that sand, the clean sand, to help recharge some of the beach areas that may be beginning to erode – but there isn't enough sand to go all the way down to the boat ramp and certainly there isn't enough to make everybody feel comfortable."
Marten says dirty sand is better than no sand.
"It's not like new sand gets created very quickly. This sand may be contaminated, but it's dirt and gosh we get run off with tons of dirt in the ocean all the time. It certainly wouldn't be a new thing. Usually we get the dirt without the sand, this way we'd at least have sand to go with our dirt," Marten said.
City officials say the Department of Facility Maintenance routinely and regularly dredges the Kaelepulu stream mouth and will continue to do so, as their efforts reduce flooding hazards for Enchanted Lakes and improve the area's water quality.