House OKs funds for EIS for beach nourishment plan

The state House on Thursday approved funds for an environmental impact statement for a proposed beach nourishment plan for Kaanapali Beach south of Black Rock.

The west side beach that was recently named America’s Best Beach by Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University who is also known as Dr. Beach, has experienced severe and chronic erosion that has degraded sections of the beach and damaged shoreline infrastructure and amenities, a news release from the state House said.

West Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey, who introduced the bill, explained Thursday that sand is removed from the beach every winter. The current erosion is eating away at vegetation at the beach’s edge and is putting in jeopardy a walkway on the shoreline, he said.

This effort also is seen as a preventative measure for resort structures along the shoreline, to prevent them from being threatened by the receding shoreline as has happened with condos in Napili, he said.

The tentative beach nourishment plan, which is subject to the environmental impact statement, is to dredge sand offshore of the beach, put it on a barge and bring it ashore, McKelvey said.

No cost estimate for the beach nourishment plan was provided.

The cost of the environmental impact statement is estimated at $800,000. Kaanapali Operations Association has committed to providing $400,000 and seeks matching state funding, which the bill that was ratified by the House provides.

The cost may be higher than other environmental statements due to the area being in the whale sanctuary and the culturally sensitive nature of the shoreline, McKelvey said.

The bill headed to the state Senate does not list a specific amount of funding but has a provision that no funds will be expended unless matched dollar for dollar with private funds, the news release said.

House Bill 378, House Draft 1, calls for the project to be conducted by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources with the support of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Kaanapali Operations Association. This is a similar partnership to the collaborative efforts demonstrated during the Waikiki Beach maintenance project completed last year.

“Restoring Kaanapali Beach is essential to preserving this vital environmental, recreational and cultural resource for our locals and visitors alike,” said McKelvey.

“We need to proactively look at environmentally friendly options to protect and preserve the beach before the situation becomes so severe that structures are threatened and revetments, seawalls and other emergency measures are the only options available,” said the lawmaker.

* Lee Imada can be reached at