Study tracks Waikiki sand erosion

Published On: Feb 25 2014 09:00:00 PM HST

Just a year after a massive, multi-million dollar replenishment project, a fourth of the sand in Waikiki is already gone.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' report.

"There along Queen's Beach you can see how the sand has already gone away," said Waikiki resident Jayme Cloutier.

A study taken one year after the replenishment project shows just how much has disappeared.

"There was about 3 feet of erosion in the first year," saidUniversity of Hawaii researcher Shellie Habel.

Three feet may not sound like much after 30 feet was added to the shoreline.  For months, crews pumped sand from offshore channels, piled it up then spread it out, but a fourth of the 24,000 cubic yards of sand is already gone.

"We were only placing sand in the upper part of the beach, not the fore shore area. Some of that sand slid down to fill in that area as the beach finds a new balance. We expect these high rates of erosion to decrease in the coming years," said Brad Romine, with the Hawaii Office of Conservation and Coastal Land.

The study found not all of Waikiki fared the same after the replenishment. The west end shrunk by about 9 feet, while the central section actually grew by more than 5 feet. The beach survey also tracked the seasonal changes to the shifting sands.

"In the summer season the sand shifts to the east, and in the winter it shifts to the west. It mainly moves to the west because the current moves in that direction," said Habel.

Researchers closely watch the Waikiki shoreline because lessons learned from the latest replenishment project could make the next one more effective. Experts said there will need to be another one.

"It is a leaky system, so it needs to be replenished now and then if we want to maintain it," said Romine.

Maintaining the beach comes with a cost. The latest pricetag to protect the important piece of real estate: $2.2 million.

"Now there's enough space for everybody to enjoy the beach, so I think its worth it," added Cloutier.


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