Winter waves are eating away at Maui shorelines and putting oceanfront condos in danger

West Maui condos face imminent threat from extreme erosion
Updated: Jan. 11, 2018 at 11:54 AM HST
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KAHANA, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Winter waves are taking a toll on a shrinking West Maui shoreline.

With a huge swell rolling in this weekend, even more of the oceanfront property could soon slip away.

Nine condominium complexes along the Kahana Bay coastline are in imminent danger from the extreme erosion.

One property that is particularly vulnerable is the Sands of Kahana.

"We lost huge amounts of shoreline very, very early on in the winter season," said Wayne Cober, vice president of Soleil Management, the condo's management company. "Thanksgiving weekend, there was a very strong north swell that came in and literally took 12 to 15 feet of property off the front of the Sands of Kahana."

Cober said the condominium received an emergency permit from the state to put sandbags along the coastline, but now he's waiting for the shipment of specified bags to arrive.

The erosion has already caused several coconut trees along the shoreline to topple over.

"The residents are upset of course because they're standing there watching their investment go away, one foot at a time," said Cober.

Three neighboring condominiums have stacked up sandbags as a temporary mitigation measure.

Four other properties have seawalls that were built several decades ago. Some of the barriers, however, are being undermined due to long-term erosion and wave impact, causing sinkholes to form.

"The historical approach has been well there's erosion, there are properties impacted, let's respond to that with a seawall and the impacts of that, the consequences of that are now known," a coastal geologist with the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program on Maui.

A 2016 study paid for by the County of Maui found a large amount of offshore sand that could be used for a regional beach nourishment project.

The nine properties formed the Kahana Bay steering committee and agreed to split the cost of an Environmental Impact Statement to look at possible solutions, including structures such as groins to contain the sand and control the wave energy.

A long-term project may take up to five years to permit and construct.

The committee is working with the county on a bill to create a special improvement district which would allow the condos to establish a special tax to fund the project.

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