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Kamaole dunes are up for restoration

Sand dunes play key role in slowing erosion

Kamaole Beach Park I in Kihei is a popular place to hang out in the sun Wednesday morning. The beach’s dunes are scheduled to be nourished with sand dredged from Kihei Boat Ramp. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Sand dune restoration projects are underway to fight coastal erosion, which affects about 85 percent of Maui’s beaches, officials said Friday.

The west and south side are considered hot spots for erosion, and the dunes at Kamaole Beach Park I in Kihei are on the agenda for repair.

“In this particular case, portions of the coastal dune at Kamaole I Beach Park have been subject to degradation from high wave events and intense human use,” said Tara Owens, coastal hazards specialist with University of Hawaii Sea Grant Program. “This project will restore degraded areas and re-establish native vegetation along with designated footpaths to protect restored areas.”

The county put out bids for hauling and sand placement for the project on Tuesday; the window closes at 2 p.m. Dec. 12.

The project involves moving between 3,000 and 5,000 cubic yards of sand, currently piled at the Kihei Boat Ramp upper parking lot, to Kam I.

Sand dredged from Kihei Boat Ramp takes up about half of the lot that serves as overflow parking for the ramp Wednesday. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Hawaii Sea Grant and the South Maui Volunteers have designed the project to ensure that “Maui’s sand resources are protected and used in an environmentally beneficial manner,” Owens said.

Maui County spokesperson Chris Sugidono said some permits are still pending for the project, and trucking is not anticipated to begin until the new year. But once the work begins, the sand transportation should only take four days to a week, estimated Jim Buika, coastal zone management planner with the county Planning Department.

In the meantime, the piles of sand have been stored at the Kihei Boat Ramp parking area, blocking multiple spots for about a month. Don Burns of Seafire Charters said that people have been parking on the street, which he worried could block the bicycle lane and create problems.

“The busy season is coming up and when the whales get here, so many people watch the whales also, and there’s nowhere to park, so that’s the big issue,” Burns said. “And also, if they park their car in the street, you know how many accidents are caused by that?”

However, Burns said the Maui Police Department has been helpful in remedying the parking situation.

The sand was recently dredged and stockpiled by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation after excessive sand build-up in the harbor, which has happened twice in the last five years or so.

Dune upkeep typically occurs once every five years.

As long as there is adequate sand on the back side of the beach, sand dunes are a “stable system,” but can sometimes be difficult to control in areas with higher populations of tourists and residents.

“The big problem with the dunes is the degradation of the dunes on the shoreline,” Buika said. “When people go to the beach, they don’t have a prescribed path. They can easily trample dunes and dune plants, so you can quickly deteriorate a beautiful dune system by repeated walking in the wrong spot.”

Coastal erosion, which affects most of Maui’s beaches, also results from a combination of environmental factors, including sea level rise, seasonal high waves and storms.

“Coastal erosion is a continuing and worsening problem on Maui and statewide,” Owens said. “In response, dune protection and restoration is a proactive coastal management strategy to maintain healthy beaches and all the services they provide, such as hazard mitigation, habitat and cultural and recreational value.”

Buika added that “the community does a great job of restoring dunes in South Maui,” and that there are many other projects going on to protect shoreline infrastructure and preserve the ecosystem.

Charley Young Beach’s dunes were recently restored and had about 150 feet of overgrown plants cleared out, which took about two years of coordination with residents, volunteers and the county. It resulted in “doubling or tripling the width of the beach,” Buika said.

To assist with such projects, the Planning Department and the Maui County Council have allocated some funding to consider a position for a dune management coordinator to “help facilitate, coordinate and expand these activities,” Owens said.

“It is important that this beach sand is replaced within the active beach system in the Kihei region to avoid permanent sand loss, and associated beach erosion, that would be akin to sand mining,” she said.

Sugidono said that the Kamaole dune restoration is a county-led project through community liaison Don Couch in the Mayor’s office. The project is also made possible by Owens, Buika, coastal planner Keanu Lau Hee, Bob and Lis Richardson of the South Maui Volunteers, Finn McCall of DOBOR and others.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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