Sand dune nourishment projects coming our way

On Maui, many dune restoration projects involve placing sand on a dune area mauka of the wash of the high-water waves. These nourished sand dune areas are then often replanted with zone-specific native plants to hold the sand in place. The restored dunes are then better equipped for shoreline protection.

When restoration efforts spread the sand right up to the water level, the beach may appear larger for a time but much of that newly added shoreline sand will disappear with normal tide cycles. As we experience more and more frequent high-water events, it is easy to understand why UH Sea Grant prefers spreading sand in dune areas rather than at water’s edge. The topic of sand nourishment may soon be front and center in all of our lives and may impact our parks, roadways and infrastructure on a daily basis. This sea level rise challenge is faced by coastal communities worldwide. An expert from Australia’s “Coastal Watch” publication recently forewarned, “Sand nourishment is coming to a beach near you — it’s just a matter of when, not if.”

It should come as no surprise that we are seeing the need to buffer the impact of sea level rise with sand nourishment on Maui. It is reassuring to know that Maui County and UH Sea Grant are engaging in best-practice choices for managing our precious sand resources. Sea level rise may be inevitable into the future but being good stewards of available natural resources is imperative now.

Lis and Bob Richardson



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