Waikīkī sand replenishment plan expected to get approval
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
A plan to pump offshore sand back onto rapidly eroding Waikīkī Beach is expected to move a step closer tomorrow at the state land board meeting.
Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts has committed to pay $500,000 of an estimated $2.5 million project, according to documents on file with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The beach restoration is being called "re-nourishment of sand" by the state, according to Sam Lemmo, the state's administrator of the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands.
Lemmo said the state has set aside $1.5 million and he expects the project will need another $400,000. The Hawai'i Tourism Authority has expressed interest in supporting the project.
The state board is expected to approve a memorandum of understanding between the state and Kyo-ya, formalizing the company's offer to donate half a million dollars to help replace the sand that has ebbed off the beaches near three of Kyo-ya's resorts.
"It's simply recycling the sand," Lemmo said — sand that erodes from the beach onto the nearby reefs and sea floor. The project calls for pumping about 24,000 cubic yards of sand from about 2,000 yards offshore back onto the beach.
A draft environmental assessment is expected to be completed this month, Lemmo said. The state hopes to proceed with getting permits and begin the project by late this year or early next year, he said.
The state and the hotel company have been talking about this project for three years, said Greg Dickhens, Kyo-ya executive vice president.
(Kyo-ya also is working on a Grays Beach project that proposes construction of three groins to address sand and beach issues near the Sheraton Waikiki and the Halekulani where the beach long ago gave way to an old seawall. That project is separate and more controversial than the sand replacement because there is some community opposition.)
The sand project has garnered wide support. "The real challenge has been securing funding," Dickhens said. "We hope that this will help get this project started."
Once the pumping begins, Dickhens said, it's expected to take six to eight weeks.
"We'd love to see it happen this year — and before the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting" in 2011, he said, when Asia-Pacific world leaders are scheduled to gather here.
In 2008, the Waikiki Improvement Association co-funded a study that estimated that the partial disappearance of Waikīkī Beach to erosion could cost the tourism industry nearly $2 billion annually in lost visitor spending, trigger more than 6,000 job losses and shrink state tax revenues by about $125 million a year.
Lemmo estimates the sand has been eroding from Waikīkī Beach at a rate of 1 1/4 to 2 feet a year.
It's been a little more than three years since the state commissioned a similar but smaller sand replenishment that used the technology being discussed now. Lemmo said that project, completed in January 2007, pumped 10,000 cubic yards of offshore sand onto Kūhiō Beach between the Duke Kahanamoku statue and the Kapahulu groin.
The new project would replace sand along a stretch from the Royal Hawaiian hotel groin to Kūhiō Beach.
Lemmo said the value of the beach defies definition: "Waikīkī is the most famous beach in the world."