Shoreline advocates block machines at Kā’anapali Beach, seek community input on dune restoration
June 8, 2023, 7:41 AM HST
Shoreline advocates blocked heavy machinery at Kā’anapali Beach Tuesday, amid ongoing concerns over how sea level rise and continued beach erosion is handled.
The groups want the state to issue a stop work order, expressing concern saying cumulative impacts of multiple resorts “stockpiling sand” in front of hotels covers up encroaching dirt fill and vegetation that they say is causing the steep erosion scarp.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources reports the work is to address the proposed redistribution of sand to remove the 18-foot drop from the grass to the beach fronting the Westin Maui Resort. Department officials said the work was consistent with “minor maintenance” of the beach.
State officials say the incident highlights the need to consider all options in the face of these challenges, including identifying triggers for phased adaptation to protect public trust resources.
Beach advocates say they want the state and county to better enforce laws meant to protect the beach and are calling for a comprehensive dune restoration plan.
DLNR officials say the Westin Maui Resort and Spa requested to conduct beach maintenance (sand push) to alleviate the drop-off between the resort property and the beach. According to the department, the maintenance was requested following the natural recovery of the dry beach along the Kā’anapali shoreline from the erosion event last summer and fall.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands reviewed the proposal to redistribute sand from and along the dry beach in an effort to remove the drop.
Following the OCCL review, the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation issued the Westin a right-of-entry permit to conduct the work on state land.
Beach advocates say they are frustrated with the state for granting the permit, and want public input on such matters. Group members say they only became aware of the work after being alerted by photos and videos posted on social media.
“It’s time for us to assert our independence… to stand up for our communities and to stand up for our beaches and to do what is right,” said Kai Nishiki, a resident and vocal advocate of beach protection. “This right here is protecting private property interests, resort interests, and is covering up our beaches that are crying out to be free.”
Shoreline advocates allege that the resorts brought in dirt fill and installed grass, landscaping and irrigation on top of the sand dunes and say this material is currently encroaching on the state beach.
State officials say the proposal enabled the removal of fencing placed along the escarpment as a safety precaution.
“In our correspondence to the Westin, DLNR further recommended that the Westin consider replacing the existing grass berm at the edge of their property with a natural and native vegetated berm with designated beach access pathways,” said DLNR Senior Communications Manager Dan Dennison in an email communication to Maui Now.
“Residents felt called to take matters into their own hands to protect the public beach, and quickly mobilized,” according to a news release issued by the beach advocacy group.
They want the beach maintenance halted immediately and for a holistic plan to be worked on collaboratively with the community. Group members are also calling for environmental and cultural concerns to be addressed.
“The concerns posed by coastal erosion often cross jurisdictional boundaries between the state and counties and involve both public and private property,” said Dennison. “The DLNR will continue to work with the resort operators, local beach advocates and the Maui County Planning Department to facilitate a dune restoration project fronting the Kā’anapali resorts aimed at improving beach health and increasing resilience.”