Authorities seek fixes to unprecedented erosion at Sunset Beach

Severe erosion at Sunset Beach prompts city and state officials to take more action to protect public
Updated: Dec. 21, 2017 at 8:29 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SUNSET BEACH, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Experts say the severe erosion taking place at Sunset Beach is reaching unprecedented levels, leaving city and state officials hustling to find both short- and long-term solutions to address the rising sea levels.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii say the shoreline at Sunset Beach is the most landward it has ever been, according to historical records and aerial photos.

Ocean Safety officials, meanwhile, are still urging the public to stay away from Sunset Beach.

They say there will be as many as four more wave episodes coming from the North in the next week and a half, making the shoreline even more unstable.

"Everybody that goes to Sunset Beach, we want them to know please don't get around this cliff area. It could collapse and if it collapses it could be catastrophic," said Jim Howe, Director of the City's Department of Emergency Services.

On Thursday, heavy machinery was used to remove an Ocean Safety storage shed that was teetering on the edge of a 20-foot cliff created by the big surf.

Crews also put up no parking barricades along the makai side of Kamehameha highway, restricting parking for about 500 feet from across the Sunset Beach comfort station to Paumalu Place.

"Because of the narrow shoulder and because of anticipated wave action, we're restricting parking there just so we don't have cars too close to the bike path, creating a very tight pinch point for traffic along the highway," said Jon Nouchi, Deputy Director of the City's Department of Transportation Services.

State and city officials agree these are only short-term solutions.

Those who monitor the state's coastlines say rather than try to harden the shoreline, it's time to start thinking of ways to move Hawaii's coastal communities and infrastructure inland.

"For example, considering the possibility of starting to step back away from the shoreline in a managed retreat strategy," said Dolan Eversole, coastal processes specialist at the UH Sea Grant program.

"It's challenging. It's expensive. It's painful. But I don't know that we have a lot of options on the North Shore," said Sam Lemmo, administrator at the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands within the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

City officials say other fixes like putting sand bags or moving sand around at Sunset Beach would not work at this time because the sand is not in the right locations and the beach itself is too wet.

Copyright 2017 HawaiiNewsNow. All rights reserved.