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Erosion eating away at beaches

September 12, 2013
Maui Weekly

The Maui News - A new study says that Maui could see some of its beaches completely disappear over the next few decades due to sea-level rise, following a trend of erosion at more than three-quarters of Valley Isle beaches in the last century.

"For Maui beaches, the worst erosion is on the north shore--87 percent of North Shore beaches are eroding," said Charles Fletcher, associate dean and professor at the University of Hawai'i's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology on O'ahu. Kanaha Beach Park and Pa'ia beaches have some really problem areas."

Global sea-level rise was determined to be the primary cause of coastal erosion in the state by the study published late last month in the scientific journal "Global and Planetary Change."

This conclusion was applied to data published last year by Fletcher and a team of university researchers, including lead author and Coastal Management Specialist Brad Romine, that found 78 percent of Valley Isle beaches had eroded with an islandwide average shoreline reduction rate of 13 centimeters per year.

Fletcher estimates Maui's sea level could rise nearly a foot in the next century and erode about 100 feet of shoreline.

"You could end up looking like American Samoa, which is a museum of seawalls," he said. "There's still beaches, but you have to drive a long time to get to them.

Fletcher said that "the only solution" to save Maui beaches is for the county to acquire and to protect as many shoreline areas as possible, keeping them out of development so that they may erode naturally.

"Beach erosion doesn't necessarily spell the end of the beach if the shoreline is allowed to naturally erode," he said, adding that seawalls disrupt the natural process and effectively destroy beaches. "I think Maui County will decide that we want beaches for our grandchildren."



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