A hui of beachfront homeowners in Spreckelsville wants to move ahead with installing rock groins at a beach along Stable Road, replacing temporary sand-filled "geotubes" that were laid two years ago to slow beach erosion.
The privately funded project is intended to preserve the 600-foot-long beach "that has experienced chronic beach erosion for decades," according to a draft environmental assessment filed this week by the Stable Road Beach Restoration Foundation Inc.
The study says that without action, beach access, recreational uses, shoreline habitats for endangered species and the safety of some homes are threatened.
Waves splash over sand-filled “geotubes” that have served as a temporary way to slow beach erosion at a beach along Stable Road in Spreckelsville. A group of beachfront homeowners want to install permanent rock groins, instead. The group has completed a draft environmental assessment for the project.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The organization was formed in 2007 by seven Stable Road neighborhood homeowners to help restore and protect the beach.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources had permitted a 2010 pilot project that allowed the group to install temporary sand-filled groins as well as nourish the beach with sand pumped from offshore. The sand replenishment aspect of the project was suspended that same year because of bad weather.
The pilot project was controversial among recreational ocean users and some neighbors who complained the sand mining was doing more harm than good and that the anchored geotubes were damaging the reef.
The environmental assessment proposing the permanent rock groins says the project "will result in zero adverse environmental impacts."
The "work scope is simply to remove the four temporary sand-filled geotube groins and to replace them with three or four longer-lasting rock groins of the same scale and in the same general locations," the study said. "The replacement groins will be similar to the numerous rock groins downdrift of the beach toward Kanaha Beach Park that have been in place for at least 72 years and have significantly (reduced) the beach erosion rate compared to adjacent beaches."
Jeff Lundahl, president of the Stable Road Beach Restoration Foundation, said that the group has been closely monitoring the effects of the sand-filled groins as required by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
"We've been doing monitoring and assessments of potential impacts for two and a half years, and we're satisfied it is performing as intended," he said. "This project has really reduced the rate of erosion such that during winter and fall, as we're experiencing with the large waves now, they actually bring sand onto this beach. By these groins retaining that sand, we're able to go an entire year without the need for beach nourishment."
He said the proposed project is expected to cost between $150,000 and $200,000 to remove the existing geotubes and install the rock groins. The group hopes to start the work next spring, Lundahl said.
"I know there was concern about the last project affecting the marine environment, but let me be clear that there is no beach nourishment as part of this project," he said.
Because the temporary groins are only permitted through mid-2014, the draft study says that without the project, the beach could "naturally transform into a 'lost beach' with no sand."
The environmental review points to University of Hawaii studies using aerial photographic data from 1960 to 2002. The Stable Road beach area saw an average annual erosion rate of approximately 1.3 feet and an annual 10 percent decrease of average beach width during that time frame, according to the draft assessment.
"From 2006 to 2010, the beach experienced up to a four-fold increase of the historic annual erosion rate and beach retreat," the study said.
It also notes that a Maui County beach management plan from 1997 labeled the overall Stable Road beach area as an "erosion hotspot," and some areas as "lost beach." The latter is defined as areas lacking a recreational beach, and where shoreline access is very difficult or impossible.
Lundahl said the need for the draft environmental assessment was triggered by the group's application for a conservation district use permit with the state DLNR. He said a public hearing on the project is expected to be scheduled sometime next month.
Sam Lemmo, administrator of DLNR's Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, said in a memo to the state Office of Environmental and Quality Control that his office anticipates a "finding of no significant impact" for the proposed project.
The draft study can be viewed on the state Office of Environmental and Quality Control's website at oeqc.doh.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.