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12 Maui beaches face high vulnerability to coastal threats from sea-level rise

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County of Maui.

A dozen beaches in Maui County have low adaptation potential to withstand impacts of sea-level rise and coastal threats, according to data compiled by the Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation.

The study covers 65 beach parks and is now available online with an interactive map showing park facilities, sea-level rise zones, flood areas, sand deposits and other features. It also identifies potential adaptive strategies for each park.

“The mapping tool is very informative for our residents as well as Department of Parks and Recreation staff,” said Mayor Michael Victorino in a press release announcing the online availability. “With climate change, we can’t begin too soon to plan for sea-level rise near Maui County’s nearshore assets.” 

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Three beach parks in West Maui–Launiupoko, Ukumehame, and Wahikuli Wayside Park–had the lowest adaptation potential to withstand impacts of sea level rise, based on five indicators of vulnerability.

  • Launiupoko in West Maui. PC: arcgis Adaptation Mapping Tool / County of Maui
  • Launiupoko in West Maui. PC: Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation Vulnerability and Adaptation Study 2022 Prepared by Tetra Tech, Inc.
  • Wahikuli Wayside Park in West Maui. PC: arcgis Adaptation Mapping Tool / County of Maui
  • Wahikuli Wayside Park in West Maui. PC: Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation Vulnerability and Adaptation Study 2022 Prepared by Tetra Tech, Inc.
  • Ukumehame Beach Park in West Maui. PC: arcgis Adaptation Mapping Tool / County of Maui
  • Ukumehame Beach Park in West Maui. PC: Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation Vulnerability and Adaptation Study 2022 Prepared by Tetra Tech, Inc.

The study outlined each indicator with the following explanation:

  • Park area: A measure of park area exposed to chronic coastal flooding and land loss with 3.2 feet of sea level rise. The Sea Level Rise Exposure Area is based on projections of passive inundation, erosion, and annual high wave run-up with sea level rise.
  • Timing: A measure of the timing of exposure of the park to two sea level rise projections by 2050. 
  • Beach migration: A measure of the availability of sand and dune material to facilitate landward beach migration and sustainability with sea level rise and provide coastal protection services. 
  • Park facilities: A measure of the number of structures, parking lots and major upright structures, in the park such as pavilions and restrooms exposed in the Sea Level Rise Exposure Area with 2 feet of sea level rise. 
  • Park access: A measure of the miles of highway and roads exposed to chronic coastal flooding and land loss with 3.2 feet of sea level rise.

The 12 beaches with low adaptation potential include the following, along with the vulnerability indicators identified for each location:

  • Launiupoko Park: park area, park access, beach migration, timing.
  • Ukumehame Beach Park: park area, park access, beach migration, timing.
  • Wahikuli Wayside Park: park area, park access, beach migration, timing.
  • Honokōwai Beach Park: park area, beach migration, timing.
  • Hoʻokipa: park facilities, beach migration, timing.
  • Kamehameha Brick Palace (former building site) near Lahaina Harbor: park area, beach migration, timing.
  • Mai Poina ‘Oe la’u Memorial Park: park area, park access, timing.
  • Paukūkalo Beach Park: park area, beach migration, timing.
  • Pōhaku Park: park area, beach migration, timing.
  • Puamana Park: park area, beach migration, timing.
  • Hanakaʻōʻō Beach: park area, timing.
  • Kalepolepo Park South: park area, timing.
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There were 39 beaches that fell into the medium or yellow adaptation potential category, and 14 that had a low or green adaptation potential, according to the data.

Maui County residents can now review online a study of sea-level rise and other coastal threats to 65 beach parks and adaptation strategies for each park by visiting https://www.mauicounty.gov/BPVAStudy.

The project is ongoing and the website will be updated as future phases are completed. Parks included in the study are:

  1. “Duke” Maliu Regional Park
  2. Charley Young Park
  3. Charley Young Park Parking Lot
  4. D.T. Fleming Park
  5. HA Baldwin Park
  6. Hālawa Park
  7. Hāna Beach Park
  8. Hanakaʻōʻō Park
  9. Helene Hall
  10. Hoaloha Park
  11. Honokōwai Park
  12. Honomanū Park
  13. Hoʻokipa Park
  14. Kahananui Village Park
  15. Kahekili Beach Park 
  16. Kakahaia Park
  17. Kalama Park, Cove Park
  18. Kalepolepo Park (North)
  19. Kalepolepo Park (South)
  20. Kamaʻole I
  21. Kamaʻole I & II Parking Lot
  22. Kamaʻole II
  23. Kamaʻole III
  24. Kamaʻole Point
  25. Kamehameha Brick Palace
  26. Kamehameha Iki
  27. Kanahā Beach Park
  28. Kaonoulu Park
  29. Kaunakakai Lighthouse Park
  30. Keʻanae Park
  31. Keawakapu Beach Park Parking Lot
  32. Kenolio Park
  33. Keōpūolani Regional Park (Maui Arts & Cultural Center)
  34. Keōpūolani Regional Park (Maui Botanical Gardens, YMCA)
  35. Kūʻau Bay Beach Park (Blue Tile)
  36. Lahaina Civic Center
  37. Lahaina Courthouse Park
  38. Launiupoko Open Space Park
  39. Launiupoko Park
  40. Māʻalaea Haycraft Park
  41. Mai Poina ‘Oe la’u
  42. Mākena Landing
  43. Mālama Cultural Park
  44. Malu Ulu O Lele Park
  45. One Aliʻi Park
  46. Palauea Beach Park
  47. Papalaua Wayside Park
  48. Pāpōhaku Beach Park
  49. Paukūkalo Beach Park
  50. Paukūkalo Wetlands 
  51. Pauwela Lighthouse
  52. Pōhaku Beach Park
  53. Polo Beach Park
  54. Poʻolenalena Park
  55. Puamana Park
  56. South Maluaka Beach Park 
  57. Ukumehame Beach Park
  58. Ukumehame Firing Range
  59. Ulua Mokapu Beach Park
  60. Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Hall 
  61. Wahikuli Wayside Park
  62. Waiehu Beach Park
  63. Waiehu Golf Course
  64. Wailea Beach Park
  65. Waipuilani Park
Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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