Seawall replacement project gets OK from state

The final environmental assessment for a project to construct a replacement seawall, drainage improvements and a beach access path at Kahana Sunset has been accepted and published by the state.

The state Office of Environmental Quality Control issued a finding of no significant impact for the project, according to a notice published last week.

The project calls for demolishing the existing 114-foot seawall and 10-foot-wide concrete stairway at Keonenui Bay, between Haukoe and Alaeloa points. A new seawall would be built mauka of the state-designated shoreline and a 13-foot-wide replacement stairway about 30 feet inland of the existing structure.

A 250-foot-long access path to the beach would also be put in along the Kahana Sunset’s southern boundary. The path will be gated, but kept open between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., according to the final environmental assessment.

The replacement seawall would not only protect the property’s six buildings from the punishing surf of winter storms it also would increase the beach area by more than 3,300 square feet in front of the resort at the water’s edge, a project engineer said.

The accompanying drainage improvements would help prevent sediment and pollutants from contaminating the marine environment, according to the document.

The Kahana Sunset Association of Apartment Owners (AOAO) submitted its final environmental assessment in January.

When the 79-unit Kahana Sunset resort condominiums were first built in 1971, the building closest to the shore on the north side was approximately 15 feet from the shoreline, and another building on the south side was about 50 feet from the shoreline, the document said. Due to coastal erosion over the last four decades, the north building is now only 8 feet from the shoreline, and the southern building only about 10 feet away.

Portions of the old seawall and nearby building foundation collapsed following a storm in December 2009, according to the Kahana Sunset assessment. In 2010, another portion of the seawall collapsed, posing a safety hazard.

The following year, severe cracks began developing along a number of areas along the seawall.

The estimated cost of demolishing and rebuilding the seawall, drainage improvements and a new beach path would cost nearly $1 million, an apartment owner told The Maui News. Jacqueline Scheibel, co-chairwoman of the Kahana Sunset AOAO Long-range Planning Committee, said the project will be paid for by the owners, who have already taken out a loan from First Hawaiian Bank they intend on paying back over the next four years.

“We’re looking at it as our gift to that little part of West Maui,” Scheibel said.

Construction would take about 10 to 12 weeks, she said, and is tentatively planned to start by late July or early August. If permitting is held up until the winter months when powerful northwest swells hammer the coastline, the project would likely be delayed until next year when the surf calms down again.

The resort condominiums are individually owned by part-time residents and used as vacation rentals except for one full-time resident.

The proposed project will still need to gain approval of a special management use permit from the Maui Planning Commission before it can move forward. Planning Department officials said Thursday that the commission will likely consider the measure at its July 22 meeting, though the date remains tentative.

The project also needs to secure a community plan amendment from single family to hotel, and a change in zoning from residential to hotel district “in order to establish land-use consistency and conformity with the existing use,” the assessment said. The Maui County Council is the approving authority for those permits.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at