Maui Business

Maui Ocean Users Sue Land Board Over 400 Foot Seawall

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A lawsuit has been filed in Maui’s environmental court over a 400 foot seawall proposed for construction at Kahana Bay in West Maui.

Sandbag barrier in Kahana where condominium properties are threatened by erosion and high waves. File image 2017 Credit: Tara Owens via PacIOOS.

Nā Papa‘i Wawae ‘Ula‘ula, West Maui Preservation and Native Hawaiian fisherman Felimon Sadang filed the suit seeking to reverse the Board of Land and Natural Resources’ summary denial of their request for a contested case.

Opponents to the Seawall Say the Structure Would Exacerbate Impacts:

Those testifying against the seawall say hardened shorelines have caused flanking erosion along West Maui shorelines, and assert that installation of a larger, permanent structure at the Hololani Condominium site would exacerbate impacts to coastal ecosystems.

Dr. Mark Deakos of the Hawai’i Association for Marine Education and Research provided testimony to the Senate Committee on Water and Land saying:

“The suggestion that retreat would not be beneficial because west Maui is sand poor and the sand along this beach is just now being exhausted, also seems absurd. The geology maps for this region show plenty of dune substrate that would support a beach for many decades to come. Sea levels have been rising for the past 15,000 years (since the Last Glacial Maximum) causing the shoreline to retreat and beach along with it. To suggest that only now, in 2018, these beaches have suddenly drained their capacity seems very unlikely.”


West Maui resident Kai Nishiki, who is a coordinating member of Nā Papa‘i, questioned why the BLNR would approve a permanent seawall while Maui County’s permit only allowed for a temporary seawall until the County completed its regional beach nourishment project for Kahana Bay.

Nishiki testified, “Kahana has been our place to go fish, dive, collect limu, swim, surf and enjoy time with our ‘ohana. The science is clear: a huge 400 foot long seawall will destroy what we love about this place.”

In written testimony she said:

“While the sandbag revetment is intended to be a short-term solution, Maui County has pursued a long-term solution in regional beach nourishment by paying for a sand study, which determined that there is offshore sand available for the project. With the condo owners now willing to fund the EIS, the beach nourishment project is ready to proceed. A seawall, with all its accompanying effects, would work against the efforts of a beach nourishment. Additionally, a seawall only protects one property, while beach nourishment will potentially protect the entire bay including all nine condos.”

Nā Papa‘i Wawae ‘Ula‘ula is a hui of concerned West Maui residents whose mission is dedicated to protecting and enhancing shoreline access for the public and Hawaiian cultural practices. West Maui Preservation Association is an environmental organization in West Maui.


In earlier testimony before the Land Board on March 23, 2018, the Sierra Club of Hawaii wrote:

“Seawalls eliminate the ability of beaches to naturally fluctuate with changing waves and tide. With nowhere to go, sandy beaches are squished between an unyielding seawall and rising water levels. Without proper transport, beaches are eventually lost, public shoreline access is hindered, coastal habitats suffer and local economies are impacted. Worse, seawall projects typically cost in the millions of dollars, putting a serious drain on financial resources that could otherwise be spent to make the road better.”

What Supporters of the Seawall are Saying:

Supporters of the project reportedly say the seawall would prevent a ‘clay bank’ from eroding to the ocean. Written testimony was submitted by the Hololani Condominium AOAO to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on April 4, 2018, stating:

“While some testifiers advocate allowing the erosion to continue without any shoreline structures, if the erosion is allowed to continue, the resulting shoreline will consist of a cliff and very poor water quality — high turbidity due to the landward red soils and darker material washing into the ocean — which would be damaging to the marine life, such as the coral colonies that are presently flourishing offshore. The turbidity would also make the bay undesirable for human use. Furthermore, the Hololani project has been designed to not adversely impact the neighboring properties including specific design measures taken to ensure that flanking (which would increase erosion to the adjacent properties) will not result.”


Maui County Director of Public Works, David Goode also provided written testimony in support of SCR 63 saying it “would enable the Hololani Shore Protection Project to resolve a longstanding drainage issue that causes dangerous flooding of Lower Honoapiʻilani Road, which the Department maintains.”

Goode said, “Specifically, DPW supports SCR 63 because it will allow the drainage issue to be addressed this year, rather than requiring users of Lower Honoapiʻilani Road to endure another year of unsafe conditions.”

In written testimony he stated: “The Hololani Shore Protection Project also provides other important public benefits, such as access across its property and the construction of a new concrete stairway to provide safe public access tot he shoreline for local fishermen and beach users.”

Officials with the Department of Land and Natural Resources responded to our request for comment saying, as per their standard, the department does not comment on active litigation.


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