Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 31, 2003

Problems at Waikiki Beach go way back

By Robert L. Wiegel

I learned to swim at Waikiki Beach in 1930 and have visited it many times since. I have a longtime interest in the health of Waikiki Beach and its surf.

George Downing's letter of July 23 and the article on beach replenishment in Waikiki by the Associated Press of July 6 recommend the use of sand pumped from offshore. The use of sand to widen the beach was recommended in a 1927 report of the Engineering Association of Hawaii.

Problems at Waikiki began long before Downing's date of 1928. Encroachment onto the beach occurred in the 1880s and 1890s. But of much greater importance was the removal of sand, coral rubble and rock by dredging to fill the wetlands at Fort DeRussy in 1909, and in the removal of a many truckloads of sand from the premises of Queen Lili'uokalani circa 1909.

An article in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (April 25, 1910) is titled "Spoiling the Waikiki Beach: How Honolulu's World-Famous Bathing Resort Is Being Ruined; Heavy Removal of Sand."

Then, in 1913, a 69-ton coast artillery gun was transported to Fort DeRussy through the Hau Tree Channel (Halekulani), and a channel parallel to the reservation. Kinau Wilder, in her book "Wilders of Waikiki" (1978), whose family home was near the present Halekulani, recalled that the barge and tug broke through the reef just beyond the spot where their raft floated in 1913. She says that this completely changed the pattern of the currents, and the beach at Waikiki was never the same.

Wilder adds that the beach was eroded, becoming 10 to 30 feet narrower, and that property owners were forced to build seawalls to protect their houses.

The reach of shore between Kewalo Basin and Diamond Head must be treated as an entity, not just the relatively short traditional Waikiki Beach. Channels, basins and ponds have been dredged in the reef for several purposes, and about one-half of the shore between Kewalo Basin and the Elks Club is fronted by them. This has caused major changes in wave and current action, and in the transport and deposition of sand and silt.

Robert L. Wiegel is a professor emeritus of the University of California-Berkeley Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.