Investigating how policymakers are undermining laws and regulations intended to protect the state’s all-important beaches, which are eroding at an alarming rate.
A legal loophole allowed wealthy property owners to protect their real estate at the expense of Hawaii’s coastlines. Now, the state Legislature is considering bills to crack down on the destructive practices, but questions around enforcement remain.
Seawalls erode Hawaii’s beaches, but the state has been lax about approving them and disorganized about enforcing the law. Officials now pledge action, after a Honolulu Star-Advertiser and ProPublica investigation.
Everybody knows that seawalls cause beach loss, and Hawaii law forbids building them. But Honolulu County officials have granted exemptions to 46 homeowners over the past two decades even as a quarter of Oahu’s beaches have disappeared.
Major islands have lost nearly a quarter of their beaches in the last century. The culprit? Seawalls and other barriers erected by wealthy homeowners.
Hawaii’s beaches are public land, which officials are obligated to protect and preserve. But a state agency has repeatedly allowed homeowners, including surfer Kelly Slater, to use tactics that protect property while speeding up the loss of beaches.
Honolulu officials have granted an exception to the state’s beach protections, clearing the way for a controversial multimillion-dollar renovation of a century-old seawall at a property owned by the chair of the Obama Foundation.
After Native Hawaiian remains were found on the multimillion-dollar oceanfront lot being developed by the chair of the Obama Foundation, a state official decided to relocate the remains. Kamuela Kala‘i is speaking up for her ancestors.
Although Hawaii has laws meant to preserve disappearing shorelines, beachfront property owners have been able to bypass them. That’s what happened at an expansive coastal estate officials say the Obamas will live in.