Wailua Beach & Bike Path

SUBHEAD: An important meeting on the fate of the Bike Path plan along disappearing Wailua Beach.

By Judy Dalton on 2 January 2013 in Island Breath -

Image above: Traffic along the Kuhio Highway is not far from the spray of breaking surf today. When the Bike path along the beach was suggested the blacktop was over 150 feet from the shorebreak. From Judy Dalton.

Special County Council Meeting on Bike Path at Wailua Beach.

Historic County Building on Rice Street in Lihue.

Part 1 - 8:30AM-12:30PM on January 4th 2013.
Part 2 - 1:30PM TO 3:00PM on January 4th 2013

A path that goes along the coast may sound like a nice idea. But is it really a good idea for Wailua Beach if it means that the County's concrete multi-use bike path along the upper portion of the beach will likely cause irreversible environmental and cultural damage?

Please come to the Special County Council meeting this Friday, January 4 at the Historic County Building on Rice Street from 8:30AM-12:30PM about the concrete bike path project at Wailua Beach, followed by another meeting about the path on Papaloa Road, which connects to Wailua Beach from the north, from 1:30PM TO 3PM.

You will have an opportunity to have your voice heard in what may be the last chance to protect and preserve Wailua Beach. If unable to come, please send your testimony to:


It’s recommended that you write to them even if you’re sure you’ll be there.

Please share this information with people you know who care about our beaches.

Image above: A man fishing in the ocean at Wailua Beach sitting on the shoulder of the road. From Judy Dalton.

Also, Mayor Carvalho, in his position of authority, can determine the fate of Wailua Beach. Would you please contact Mayor Carvalho who has the authority to stop the project? See attached letter at the end of this email if you want Wailua Beach to survive into the future.

Will you please respectfully ask him to put an immediate hold on the project and to consider other options?

Mayor Bernard J. Carvahlo,Jr.
4444 Rice St., Suite 235
Lihue, HI 96766

Video above: Watch a HOIKE video produced in November with local residents speaking from a cultural and environmental perspective about the path project for Wailua Beach. From (vp.telvue.com/player?height=390&id=T01393&noplaylistskin=1&video=139340&width=520).

The Army Corps of Engineering recently announced ".. the proposed path will not significantly alter shoreline erosion trends at Wailua Beach." which doesn't exactly translate to an approval of the project.

They also mentioned that they made their decision based on photographs sent them by the County's Department of Public Works.

The Army Corps report acknowledged the erosion at Wailua Beach and its consequences stating:
"Using the January 2008 shoreline, the 1975 shoreline is eroded back by as much as 150 feet from the 2008 shoreline position."

“…the concrete slabs could be threatened by undermining if the shoreline erodes along the oceanside edge of the bike path.”

"...As shoreline erosion approaches the seaward edge of the bike path, the sand below the concrete slabs would be allowed to erode from underneath…"

The Army Corps suggested that the County evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the project considering the operating and maintenance costs involved with the path, stating:
"Though there currently appears to be a sufficient width of beach fronting the oceanside edge of the proposed bike path alignment, this does not preclude future episodic erosion events from severely eroding the shoreline. If this were to occur, the proposed course of action by DPW would be to remove the bike path until the beach recovers. There is historical evidence that the shoreline could erode to the extent that this maintenance action may be required. Because of this, the operations and maintenance costs along with the project construction costs should be evaluated to determine the cost effectiveness of the current removable concrete bike path alternative”.
With fast-approaching tsunamis and hurricanes would there be time to dispatch heavy machinery to remove the slabs and haul away? What is the plan for dealing with 1,500 pound concrete slabs that may scatter onto the highway from high wave events which could block emergency vehicles?

The highway along Wailua Beach was built on a sand dune, so everything seaward (makai) of the highway is the upper dune. That would place the concrete path directly on Wailua Beach, considered by Native Hawaiians to be one of the most sacred, historically, and culturally significant places in the Hawaiian Islands.

High wave action over the past several years - and most notably during the past year - has  significantly eroded and narrowed Wailua Beach. It is along the upper part of the beach that the concrete path is to be built - as close as 12 feet from the recent high water mark in some areas. The lava rock wall will be taken down and the path would be built on the makai side of where
it once stood.

The very process of building the path, taking out trees, using heavy construction equipment excavating through sand and boulders to install the many "removable" 1,500-pound, 8-feet wide, 10-feet long, 18-inch deep concrete slabs would compromise the integrity of the fragile beach. It would undermine the structural foundation of the already unstable beach, risking collapse and accelerated erosion of the beach rim.

Interfering with natural processes of these fragile coastal dunes by installing the concrete path (essentially a beach-hardening device) can cause erosion to increase. Predicted sea level rise due to climate change magnifies the concerns of placing development on beaches. It’s critical to the stability of the highway to leave the beach intact and undisturbed. Further de-stabilization of the beach would put not only the path but the highway at risk, creating the need to build a beach-destroying seawall to fortify the remnants. Wailua Beach would face the same fate as one-fourth of the beaches on Oahu - permanent loss.

Read about the effects of hardened shorelines in the recently published book Living on the Shores of Hawai’i: http://www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/books/fletcherLivingIntro.pdf

A readily achievable and sustainable alternative is to locate the path on the makai lane of the existing highway when the fourth already-planned highway lane on the Coco Palms Hotel is added to widen the highway. By reducing the lanes from 11 feet to 10 feet wide (the same width of many freeway lanes on Oahu) an 8-feet wide path could be created on the existing pavement including a protective traffic barrier.

In the meantime, there is already bike and pedestrian access between the north and south ends of Wailua Beach. Pedestrians can enjoy walking on the beach. Cyclists can walk their bikes along the existing highway shoulder from one end to the other in 7 minutes. There is no need to build a 1.9 million-dollar concrete path that could be cost-prohibitive to maintain, that would create safety hazards during storm and high wave events, and that would have harmful environmental and cultural consequences when there is an existing transit access.

The alternatives outlined above would be protective of the coastal environment and respectful of Native Hawaiian cultural values by keeping the path off the beach. It would meet the objectives for the multi-use path while avoiding any cultural impacts, environmental disturbances, or irreversible consequences, preserving the natural state of the beach and the already-existing, perpetual access.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Beach Elephant Path  12/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Bike Path Consideration 12/10/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Bike path still on Wailua Beach 1/25/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Bike Path should be here 12/6/09
Ea O Ka Aina: No Path on Wailua Beach 9/17/09


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