It is vital that we restore and manage coastal dunes
Coastal sand dunes are a source of protection for our island. Ideally, Mother Nature has a balanced system in place that would naturally protect us with resilient sand dunes. However, human foot traffic is the greatest detriment to dune growth. Strategically placed pathways can help save dunes from damaging foot traffic and confine most erosion to manageable areas. Native plants also contribute to dune growth.
During storms, sand from dunes is cycled out to sea and redirects the destructive energy from storm waves off our beaches. That is the key protective benefit of dunes. Beach properties with no dunes are often the most susceptible to ocean wave and storm damage. After the storm, normal trade winds and waves replace that same sand back onto our beaches and the cycle of rebuilding dunes begins again.
The science behind Mother Nature’s beach management plan is settled and understood worldwide. In fact, the UH Sea Grant geologists in Hawaii helped write some of that science. We need resilient sand dunes for protection for our shoreline, but to document and plan for the effort of preserving them we need a Foreshore Asset Management Plan. This plan could be funded as a capital improvement project for the county Planning Department, appropriate since the beaches and dunes are actually an asset of Maui County and protected by the oversight of the Planning Department.
With sea level rise also challenging our shoreline, this positive first step toward restoring and managing our dunes is timely and vital.
Bob and Lis Richardson