Coastal erosion in Hawaii to worsen by mid-century

Coastal erosion in Hawaii to worsen by mid-century
Published: Mar. 24, 2015 at 9:13 PM HST
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MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Research done by scientists at the University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology paints a grim picture for the state's coastlines. Results of their data find that by mid-century, at least 9 out of every 10 shorelines in the state will be in retreat.

"The problem we have with coastal erosion currently is going to get worse, it's going to spread to more beaches" said Chip Fletcher, Associate Dean of SOEST, who co-authored the paper.

Co-author Tiffany Anderson studied coastal erosion at 10 beaches on Kauai, Oahu and Maui. While the erosion is all part of a natural cycle, it's decades of continued development that makes it so dire.

"The biggest problem is that we have these static structures; infrastructure, buildings that are designed to last decades, centuries. When those two intersect, you definitely have a big problem" she said.

Scientists say the sea level will rise on a factor of at least 20 to 1. For every foot up, it'll go inland 20.

Fletcher said there's no cure to the problem, only to manage it. Sand replenishment is an option--if the economic output of the area exceeds the cost of doing so, like in Waikiki. The only problem?

"Money won't make sand. There's actually a deficit of sand out there on the reef and beyond. Finding sand is a serious problem" said Fletcher.

Additionally, better coordination among state and county agencies will be critical in preserving coastlines. With 20 feet of predicted erosion in the next 35 years, Fletcher says the time to act is now.

"Do you want beaches for the future? Do we want to leave the world to our children without beaches? I think that's the question that hangs in the balance here".

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