Don’t want to put too much of a damper on your post Cinco de Mayo Monday morning, but this just came in from the University of Hawaii: nearly three quarters of all the beaches on Maui, Kauai and Oahu are eroding away, according to a new study by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST).
“Of the three islands, Maui beaches experienced the highest rates and greatest extent of beach erosion with 85% of beaches eroding,” says a May 7 email from UH spokeswoman Marcie Grabowski (click here to read the USGS/UH report). “Erosion is the dominant trend of coastal change on all three islands with 71% of beaches eroding on Kauaʻi and 60% of beaches eroding on Oʻahu.”
Eighty-five percent on Maui?! It’s a wonder we can still find space to soak up any UV rays. Granted, erosion on volcanic island chains like Hawaii is not surprising. “The inevitable fate of the Hawaiian Islands millions of years into the future is seen to the northwest in the spires of French Frigate Shoals and the remnants of other once mighty islands, ancestors of today’s Hawaii, but now sunken beneath the sea through the forces of waves, rivers, and the slow subsidence of the seafloor,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt in the email.
But unlike past islands that have eroded away, Hawaii today has considerable human development right up to the shoreline–roads and buildings that even today are crumbling away. In fact, you can see this vividly just north of the Pali on Honoapiilani Highway. It’s a fact that the study’s researchers know only too well.
“Over a century of building along the Hawaiian shoreline, without this sort of detailed knowledge about shoreline change, has led to some development that is located too close to the ocean,” said Dr. Charles Fletcher, UH Geology and Geophysics Professor and lead study author in the email. “A better understanding of historical shoreline change and human responses to erosion may improve our ability to avoid erosion hazards in the future.”