State of the Beach/State Reports/HI/Beach Fill

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State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs, A National Overview (NOAA, March 2000) provides the following information:

"Policy Citation and Description

Haw. Rev. Stat. §205A. Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Act. Shoreline Erosion Policies and Priorities: Hawaii has two major policies regarding the prevention and mitigation of shoreline erosion, as follows: 1) Erosion is controlled through shoreline use regulations as noted in the management network to preclude development that might suffer erosion damage. 2) Where this is not possible, structural and non-structural improvement measures are utilized. Non-structural techniques, such as sand replenishment, are used whenever possible as appropriate. Structural techniques such as seawalls and revetments are most often used where development of the shoreline has occurred or where valuable public beaches are endangered by erosion.

Haw. Rev. Stat. §171. The Beach Restoration Statute passed the State Legislature in 1999. This Act provides for the development of a Beach Restoration Plan by the Department of Lands and Natural Resources and creates a Beach Restoration Special Fund for beach nourishment.

Related Policies

Dredge and Fill Regulations

Haw. Rev. Stat. §205A-26(3)(A). Seeks to minimize where reasonable dredging, filling or otherwise altering any bay, estuary, salt marsh, river mouth, slough or lagoon.

Sand Scraping/Dune Reshaping Regulations

Haw. Rev. Stat. §205A. Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Act. 1) Counties required to hold public hearing on variance applications except for stabilization of shoreline erosion by the moving of sand entirely on public land. 2) Enforcement guidelines to remove/correct any structure/activity prohibited within setback area without variances approval. Additional conditions for setback variance approval: Moving sand from one location to another both seaward of setback if it will not adversely affect beach processes, diminish size of public beach and will stabilize eroding shoreline. 3) The Department of Lands and Natural Resources manages state-owned beaches seaward of shoreline.

Dune Creation/Restoration Regulations

Haw. Rev. Stat. §205A. Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Act. Structural and Non-Structural Implementation Techniques: Creation of sand dunes and berms allowed as non-structural methods of erosion prevention and mitigation.

Public Access Regulations

Haw. Rev. Stat. §205A-26(3)(C). Seeks to minimize where reasonable any development which would reduce or impose restrictions on public access.

Beach Nourishment Funding Program

Haw. Rev. Stat. §171. The Beach Restoration Statute passed the State Legislature in 1999. This Act provides for the development of a Beach Restoration Plan by the Department of Lands and Natural Resources and creates a Beach Restoration Special Fund for beach nourishment.

Beach Erosion Control Program (33 U.S.C. 426 et. Seq.) Allows USACE to carry out non-structural mitigation projects either on State or County lands at the request of these governments, or on Federal lands.

Capital Improvements Program. Funds available for non-structural improvements by State and local agencies.

Amount of State Funding

$250,000 was appropriated in 1999.

Cost Share Requirements

Haw. Rev. Stat. §171. The Beach Restoration Statute does not include matching requirements.

Beach Erosion Control Program (33 U.S.C. 426 et. Seq.). Requires match funds from the appropriate level of government for projects undertaken on State or County lands. Capital Improvements Program. Local projects funded on a matching basis with state funds."


An inventory of beach fill projects in Hawaii was not found.

Lanikai Beach and Waikiki on Oahu have been frequently filled since the 1930s. Other long-term beach fill locations are at Honokawai, Kihei, and Sugar Cove Beach (Spreckelsville) on Maui; and Kekaha on Kauai. More information on the Sugar Cove project can be found in the Beach Management Plan for Maui (2008), pages 10-11. A separate controversy over beach fill at this location was apparently resolved in 2012. An article Saving Waikiki Beach — At Least for Now which appeared in Honolulu Civil Beat in March 2015 discussed growing erosion problems at Waikiki Beach and the associated need to fund an ongoing beach fill program. Legislation (and funding) to address this issue is advancing in the Hawaii legislature.

Following are summaries of articles in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporting on two of these projects, specifically Lanikai and Kihei.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin Thursday, March 23, 2000:

"When Mollie Foti moved to Lanikai 35 years ago, there was an enormous stretch of sand extending to the Waimanalo end of the beach. Now the beach has been reduced to "a nice crescent of sand." But a few months ago, it wasn't even that. Lanikai residents had watched for decades as their southern shoreline eroded, and beachfront property owners erected seawalls and sandbag revetments to protect their homes. Meanwhile, right around the bend, Kailua Beach was gaining an excess of sand. Lanikai residents began saying, "This is Lanikai Beach in Kailua," Foti remembered. But with help from the city and state, the Waimanalo end of Lanikai has sand once again. The city dredged 10,000 to 12,000 cubic yards of sand from Kaelepulu Stream in Kailua and used it to renourish a stretch of Lanikai Beach.

"Now a 5- to 7-foot-high sand dune stands in front of four beachfront houses. Meg Stone, an Enchanted Lake resident who has taken sunrise walks on Lanikai Beach for 40 years, said the new sand means she no longer has to wait for a very low tide to walk on the beach. To walk on this section of beach at any other time, "I'd be ducking against the wall," she said. "It used to be I couldn't get past the right of way." But since the refill project she can walk farther south. "Now the sand is firm and there's lots of it. It's a longer beach, more room." Sam Lemmo, coastal lands program manager of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said this type of beach refill "is not a cure-all, but it can certainly help us out with many locations throughout the state." Beach erosion has affected almost 25%, or 17 miles, of Oahu's beaches. Refill offers natural protection for property owners, a better alternative than erecting permanent barriers, Lemmo said. "Seawalls are built in response to erosion," he said. "Your land is eroding, your structure is threatened, you want to protect it. But there is a kind of unintended side-effect," he said. "The wall accelerates beach erosion." Ned Dewey, president of the Lanikai Association, said that of the more than 100 beachfront structures, only six didn't have some sort of protection, primarily seawalls or sandbags. Now the refill will help protect structures, he said. "It was a win-win proposition for everyone involved. "The excess sand problem at Kailua Beach Park was addressed, and was taken to Lanikai Beach that desperately needed that sand." "Many people think the Lanikai sand is moving to Kailua," Dewey said. "By taking it from Kailua Beach Park to Lanikai, it's like completing a cycle."

Honolulu Star-Bulletin Tuesday, June 5, 2001:

"Marie "Micky" Palmer said since Maui County workers added sand to the eroded beach in front of her home in Kihei last August, more sand has accumulated to widen the beach by 25 feet. "It's great. It's really nice because more people walk down on the beach," Palmer said. The sand replenishment project, praised by Kihei beach residents, is prompting the county to look at other areas in which it may assist residents who face coastal erosion. Mayor James "Kimo" Apana's administration is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a $75,000 study of the coastline from Kalama Park to Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. The Army engineers are developing a map of the submerged land and looking at some historic information about changes in the topography, project manager Jerry Cornell said. Cornell said the first phase of the work will be completed by December. He said another phase includes identifying what federal programs, if any, might be useful in the county's effort to fight erosion. The Apana administration has received authorization from the County Council to spend $100,000 for beach erosion studies. County Public Works Director David Goode said he intends to use the money to assist various groups, such as an association in Spreckelsville, to solve their beach erosion problems. Goode said some require money to help them go through the permit process and conduct studies. The $100,000 is also to be used to look at the best way to obtain sand for beach replenishment projects. The Council has asked the Apana administration to re-examine its plan to use a barge and pumper to extract sand from beyond the reef. Some authorities on beach erosion believe an easier alternative would be to take sand from inland areas of Maui. "I think that's the best solution because it won't have any environmental impact at all," said Chip Fletcher, a coastal geologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Fletcher said Maui has some sugar cane fields that are no longer in operation and might have deposits of sand in them below a layer of topsoil. Fletcher said replenishing sand on the beaches is a "good idea" as long as the county does not become heavily dependent on it. He said the county will not have to replenish beaches frequently if it restores the original amount of sand in areas. At residences such as Palmer's along Halama Street, the county replenished the beach with sand taken from mounds at the Veterans of Foreign Wars center several miles away. Palmer said the county had been using bulldozers to clear the sand from streams and piling it there for many years. While the beach in front of her house is wider than it was five years ago, it is not nearly as wide as when she moved there 47 years ago. Palmer remembers that when she began living in Kihei, she could stand on the beach and look south at the cinder cone Puu Olai. "To see that now, you've got to wade way in the water," she said."

After a beach fill project at Sugar Cove Beach in Speckelsville, Maui, local fishermen noticed a decrease in the fish population in that area. Fishing holes are now reportedly filled with sand and even lobster caves are full of sand. Despite these reports, DLNR claims that there was "no environmental impact" of the beach fill project. In 2013 a proposal surfaced to build rock groins in this area, with 800 cubic yards of beach fill between the groins.

The State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) issued a press release in January 2004, stating that Governor Linda Lingle had submitted a supplemental budget request that included $2.4 million for Kuhio Beach improvements in Waikiki. The release said that:

"DLNR proposes to use modern coastal engineering to create a new sand retention design for Kuhio Beach in Waikiki that will address recurring problems including poor water circulation, safety and outdated offshore structures that interfere with natural sand replenishment processes."

DLNR conducted an offshore small-scale (10,000 cubic yards) sand-pumping project at Kuhio Beach. The purpose of the project was to re-nourish Waikiki Beach and demonstrate the effects of offshore sand retrieval in Hawaii for future beach restoration projects. The project was conducted during the period December 2006 to January 2007. Here's a summary of beach history and engineering design (January 2005).

In May 2008 the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced that Kuhio Beach in Waikiki was a winner of its 2008 Best Restored Beach Award for the Kuhio Beach Sand Replenishment Project. The press release for this award stated:

"Dolan Eversole, University of Hawai'i Sea Grant College Program Coastal Geologist, spearheaded this project beginning in December 2006. The $475,000 pilot project dredged 10,000 cubic yards of sand from 2,000 feet offshore to three sites on Kuhio Beach. The sand, which had eroded due to wave action along the coast, enlarged the beach by as much as 40 feet and inflated it two-four feet vertically, keeping the beach dry in areas previously inundated with water. In addition, the project proved to be very cost-effective, cutting in half the cost of the old method of trucking sand in from elsewhere. It had no negative environmental consequences and, in the long-run, will likely prove to facilitate coral reefs ecosystem restoration in nearshore areas previously smothered by the eroded sand."

A more controversial groin/beach fill project has been proposed for the Waikiki area. As reported in Honolulu Magazine:

"Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts, which owns the Sheraton Waikiki, is hoping to erect three 160-foot, T-shaped groins in front of the hotel, trapping sand and rebuilding a stretch of beach that is currently all but nonexistent. It’s a concept supported by the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association as well as the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and in May 2008 the state Legislature got on board as well, setting aside $1 million in its 2008-2009 budget for restoration projects on resort beaches.

But opponents are already vowing to block the project. George Downing, longtime waterman and spokesperson for the Save Our Surf organization, says the plan amounts to “armoring” the coastline, and will ruin nearby surfing breaks and exacerbate the area’s erosion problems. “What they should do is remove the groin that’s currently in front of the Royal Hawaiian, and let the beach form itself naturally,” he says. [See comments from Downing, Scott Werny of Surfider Foundation's Oahu Chapter and others on the enabling legislation.]

Sam Lemmo, administrator for the Coastal Lands Division at the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, says he’s withholding judgment on this specific project until he sees an environmental impact study, but says that well-engineered beach reclamation projects can be beneficial. “Reclaiming sand from offshore [with groins] should be better for the ecology and the surfing than simply pouring new sand on the beach, because you’re restoring the reef’s 3-D dimensions by pulling the sand off of it,” he says."

Beach Fill at Waikiki Beach. Photo: Greg Griffin

A large-scale beach fill project at Waikiki Beach was originally scheduled to begin in February 2010, but was then delayed until early 2012. It was completed in late Spring 2012. The project extends from the Kuhio Beach groin to the groin at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, about 1,730 feet of shoreline. About 24,000 cubic yards of sand were recovered from deposits up to 3,000 feet offshore in water up to 20 feet deep. Water was removed from the sand in an enclosed basin within the east Kuhio Beach crib wall. Once dry, the sand was placed along the beach. The project widened the beach by an average of 37 feet, bringing it back to its 1985 width.

A large private beach fill project that included the construction of nine rock "t-groins" was completed in summer 2013 at Iroquois Point on Oahu's South Shore. See the Environmental Assessment. Approximately 85,000 cubic yards of sand was dredged from Honolulu Harbor and placed on the beach by developer Hunt Companies. The cost of the project was reported to be $14 million. The widened beach is in front of a community called The Waterfront at Puuloa. Although Puuloa is a private rental community, the beach is opened to the public as long as visitors check in at the security gate.

More information on past and current beach fill projects is available on the website of the Office of Conservation of Coastal Lands, under the Coastal Lands and "Projects" links for Waikiki and Other Projects.

General Beach Fill Reference Documents

Information on beach fill in Hawaii is also available through Western Carolina University's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. State-by-state information is available from the pull-down menu or by clicking on a state on the map on this page.

In 2017 the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) announced a new online National Beach Nourishment Database – featuring data on projects comprised of nearly 1.5 billion cubic yards of sand placed in nearly 400 projects covering the continental U.S. coastline. In addition to the total volume and the number of projects, the database includes the number of nourishment events, the oldest project, the newest project, the known total cost, the total volume and the known length. The information is broken into both state statistics and those of local or regional projects. Every coastal continental state is included (so Alaska and Hawaii are still being compiled), and projects along the Great Lakes are similarly waiting to be added.

A report National Assessment of Beach Nourishment Requirements Associated with Accelerated Sea Level Rise (Leatherman, 1989) on EPA's Climate Change Impacts and Adapting to Climate Change websites notes that the cumulative cost of sand replenishment to protect Hawaii's coast from a 50 to 200 cm rise in sea level by 2100 is estimated at $338 million to $1.267 billion.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Civil Works Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides $4.62 billion in gross discretionary funding for the Civil Works program. This budget lists proposed projects and the associated budget justification by state.

State, Territory, and Commonwealth Beach Nourishment Programs: A National Overview (2000) is a report NOAA/OCRM that provides an overview of the problem of beach erosion, various means of addressing this problem, and discusses issues regarding the use of beach nourishment. Section 2 of the report provides an overview of state, territorial, and commonwealth coastal management policies regarding beach nourishment and attendant funding programs. Appendix B provides individual summaries of 33 beach nourishment programs and policies.


Dolan Eversole
NOAA Coastal Storms Program Coordinator, Pacific Region
University of Hawaii Sea Grant Program

Chris Conger
DLNR-Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands
(808) 587-0377

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