Maui Planning Commission members reviewed plans this week for construction of a sloping rock revetment to protect the Hololani Resort Condominiums from erosion in Kahana.
Commission members spent about three hours going over a draft environmental assessment for the project, according to Department of Planning Deputy Director Michele Chouteau McLean.
"Everyone agrees something needs to be done" about severe erosion, she said, but commission members were concerned about the potential for a "domino effect" when a rock revetment at the Hololani Resort would then adversely affect erosion and the loss of sand at neighboring properties.
Sandbags, landscaping and a few feet of land are all that stand between the Hololani Resort Condominiums and the ocean Friday in Kahana. Erosion has been a problem at the site for years, and state and county officials have authorized temporary shoreline stabilization structures since 2007. This week, the Maui Planning Commission reviewed plans for a permanent sloping rock revetment.
The Maui News / BRIAN PERRY photo
The panel wanted the condominium owners to look at other alternatives, such as building a groin (a sand-retention structure) or an offshore structure to break up wave activity, she said. Panel members also wanted more information about how the proposed rock revetment would affect other beaches in the area.
McLean said some commission members had reservations about the appearance of the revetment and wanted to know if something could be done with the project's design to reduce the visual impact.
James Barry, a coastal engineer with project consultant Sea Engineering Inc., said there's a lot of work ahead to get permits, but "we would like to get under construction by the summer of 2013."
The projected $2 million cost of the project is a rough estimate, he said, and costs will be determined by contractors bidding on the project.
Other alternatives have been and will continue to be examined, he said, and the commission's questions and comments will be addressed in the project's final environmental assessment.
The Association of Apartment Owners of Hololani Resort Condominiums was seeking comments from the commission on its draft environmental study for the project. The accepting authority for the eventual final environmental assessment will be the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands.
The project will return to the Maui Planning Commission because it needs a special management area use permit and a shoreline setback variance. A public hearing for the permits will be scheduled later. The project also needs to get a conservation district use permit.
The Hololani Resort is two twin eight-story buildings with 63 apartments.
The shoreline has been chronically eroding, with an average annual erosion rate of 0.8 feet per year, according to a project summary.
"Since the lot was originally partitioned in 1959, it has eroded almost 40 feet, moving the active erosion scarp to within 15 feet of the northern building's corner in 2007. Nearly 5,000 square feet of the property has been lost," the summary says.
Temporary shoreline stabilization structures have been authorized at the property by county and state officials since 2007, under the condition that permanent shoreline protection be engineered for the site to protect the buildings from "potentially catastrophic damage," it says.
The proposed structure is a sloping rock revetment that rises to a crest of more than 6 feet above sea level and would be backed by a vertical seawall that rises to more than 12 feet high, according to the project summary.
"The rock revetment will minimize wave reflection to help allow accretion of sand, and the vertical wall will minimize the horizontal extent of the structure," the summary says.
Most of the erosion occurs during the winter, according to the project's environmental assessment.
In the winter of 2010-11, waves inflicted property damage equivalent to a third of the total structure's value, the assessment says.
"While beach nourishment is also a regional option, it cannot guarantee the safety of the building or its inhabitants without additional measures," it says.
The proposed rock revetment would protect 372 feet of the Hololani's 400 feet of shoreline.
The environmental assessment points out that there is no sand inland of the structure but rather a clay bank.
"There will not be any impoundment of beach-quality sand," the study says. "In addition, replacing an eroding clay bank with an engineered revetment reduces reflected wave energy and eliminates the turbidity associated with bank erosion."
The assessment predicts that most of the structure "will disappear beneath the accreting beach."
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.