Sea level rise and the importance of sand dunes

Regardless of what the drivers are for sea level rise, we know from scientific data that the sea level is rising. We can observe those rises in sea level as we walk on our beaches and drive on our frontal roads during different tide cycles. We also see an increase in storm surges and an increase in the frequency and severity of storm events both on Maui and worldwide.

Coastal sand dunes and foredunes are the natural buffer between mauka development and the sea, and they offer the most cost-effective and efficient system of protection from erosion and flooding.

In addition to adding intrinsic beauty to our beaches, dunes are more importantly an integral part of the total beach system and play an important role in mitigating erosion and promoting recovery. It is the role of frontal dunes to act as a reservoir of sand for severe storm events. Without those dunes, Mother Nature will move further inland to find the sand needed for this dynamic protection system.

The protection and restoration of the frontal foredunes is a critical element in the long-term preservation of our coastal communities. UH Sea Grant documents tidal changes, provides us with the science behind the restoration effort, and provides the ongoing information about how we can best mitigate the impact of sea level rise. This vital information can be distributed and shared via an updated and current Foreshore Asset Management Plan, which would enable a proactive reaction to an otherwise alarming natural event.

Lis and Bob Richardson

Kihei

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