Honokōwai Beach project by resort group aims to restore shoreline after severe erosion
A group of hotel landowners is saying it’s a race against time to restore and preserve Honokōwai Beach in West Maui, a popular spot for beachgoers, shoreline fisherman, spear fishers, divers, snorkelers, swimmers, surfers and paddlers.
The beach was almost entirely lost after an episodic erosion event in 2016.
With accelerated erosion rates predicted, West Maui Resort Partners is proposing the Ho‘āla Honokōwai Project, an effort to restore the beach via one of three methods: beach nourishment, beach maintenance or beach nourishment with stabilizing structures.
The preferred approach will be chosen after completing environmental studies and getting public feedback, the proposal said.
Because of the complex and sensitive nature of the proposed project area, the state is mandating that West Maui Resort Partners complete a rigorous environmental study, called an Environmental Impact Statement, according to the state Office of Planning and Sustainable Development’s “The Environmental Notice” published Friday.
Now, a 30-day public review and comment period starts with submissions due by Jan. 23, 2023. Also, a public scoping meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 17, 2023, at the Lahaina Civic Center Social Hall, 1840 Honoapi’ilani Highway, Lahaina.
The project site of about 1,000 linear feet of shoreline is located where the shoreline transitions from sandy beaches, dunes and unarmored shoreline south of Honokōwai Point to mostly rocky or armored shoreline north of Honokōwai Point.
In 2016, a combination of persistent North Pacific swell and elevated water levels produced high waves, strong currents and abnormally high tides, sparking significant erosion and beach loss at Honokōwai Beach, the proposal said.
“The backshore area was exposed to erosion and a vertical escarpment (steep slope) formed along the shoreline creating a risk to public health, safety and welfare, and impeding public access to and along the shoreline,” it added.
In a few months, the shoreline retreated 6 to 12 feet and the beach was almost entirely eroded. Approximately 5,600 square feet of land was lost to erosion, and more than 1,000 cubic yards of sediment, including clay, silt and boulders, was discharged into the ocean, the proposal said.
The eroded sediment caused turbidity plumes to form in the nearshore waters, which negatively impacted water quality and prevented access to and use of the shoreline for cultural and recreational activities.
In order to move forward, the project would need to also obtain more than a dozen permits and approvals from state, federal and county agencies.
Give feedback on the Ho‘āla Honokōwai Project by sending comments to the approving agency/accepting authority and copy the applicant and the consultant.
Submit comments to approving agency State of Hawaiʹi, Department of Land and Natural Resources, by contacting Michael Cain at (808) 587-0377, [email protected], Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, 1151 Punchbowl St. #131, Honolulu, HI 96813.
Copy applicant West Maui Resort Partners, L.P., 5323 Millenia Lakes Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32839, via Michael Elliott, (407) 613-3348, [email protected], and consultant Sea Engineering, Inc., 41-305 Kalanianaʻole Highway, Waimānalo, HI, 96795, Andy Bohlander, (808) 259-7966, [email protected].