Which States Have No Beaches

This article was produced for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in partnership with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which was a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network in 2020. Sign up for Dispatches to get stories like this one as soon as they are published.

On a gusty Saturday morning, local residents and visitors lounged along Oahu’s picturesque Sunset Beach, breathing the thick, salty air and swimming in the deep blue and turquoise waters. Two women strolled along the beach, where waves glided up the deep deposits of golden sand, before stopping short and retreating.

Amid the waves were tangled mounds of thick, black fabric, sandbags the size of large tree trunks, boulders and wood planks with protruding screws — the components of the makeshift seawalls that property owners have built along the public beach to protect their homes from being sucked into the ocean. The large piles that front about half a dozen homes block residents and visitors from walking along one of the world’s most famous stretches of sand.

“It looks like a trash heap,” said Ocean Lemus, a beachgoer who stopped to stare at the mess. “Not something you would assume to find on Sunset Beach, which is the premier surf spot.”

Indeed, it’s not supposed to be there. But the people responsible are some of the most well known in the community, and with state permissions to dump these elements expiring, Hawaii authorities are now poised to crack down.

In 2018, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources gave property owners along this span of North Shore coastline, which fronts famed surf breaks known as Monster Mush and Kammies, temporary permission to install emergency “burritos,” long, sand-filled tubes covered by heavy fabric that create a hard barrier against ocean waves, on the public beach fronting their properties.

Such protections are supposed to be forbidden under state law, given the environmental damage that the makeshift structures can wreak on public beaches. When waves slam up against a hardened shoreline, they claw away at the sand, causing beaches to disappear. Oahu has already lost about one-quarter of its beaches to shoreline hardening over the last century, and scientists warn that figure could rise to 40% by 2050.

But, as the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and ProPublica reported last year, DLNR deemed the homes “imminently threatened” and allowed the homeowners to install the protections on a temporary basis with the condition they be removed in three years, or even sooner if there were signs they were damaging the beach.

The homeowners, however, have refused to remove the protections, many of which had their authorizations expire between July and September of this year. These property owners are among dozens throughout the islands who have been allowed to install temporary sandbags and other protections.

Many of the beneficiaries are owners of multimillion-dollar homes along some of the most prized beaches in the state, including famous surfer Fred Patacchia, whose permit expires later this month. (Patacchia did not reply to a request for comment.)

Now, DLNR officials seem to be trying to rein in the protections, telling the news organizations that the temporary measures along North Shore areas such as Kammies have “led to obvious degradation of the public beach resource.”

Source : https://www.coastalnewstoday.com/post/hi-rich-homeowners-have-endangered-hawaiis-beaches-with-sand-burritos-the-state-is-cracking-down

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