Kahana Bay Erosion Mitigation Project
Growing concerns about sea level rise and coastal erosion in Kahana on West Maui have led the Maui County Planning Department and the Kahana Bay Steering Committee to develop a comprehensive plan of action to not only protect the condominiums along the coast but to restore the Kahana beach entirely. This plan is currently known as the Kahana Bay Erosion Mitigation Project.
Looking at the picture above it's hard to imagine that just 30 to 40 years ago a large beach existed in front of the Kahana coastline. Kahana Bay beach is all but gone today and the coastal condos in Kahana along with one residential property are in danger of being destroyed by rising sea levels.
What's Being Done in Kahana To Restore The Coastline?
Maui County and the Kahana Bay Steering Committee enlisted Oceanit, a coastal engineering consulting organization specializing in sea level rise mitigation, to develop a proposed action and develop a Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Oceanit has developed a second draft environmental assessment report to outline the erosion mitigation project in Kahana and the restoration work is still being discussed without a target date to begin.
Approximately 1,200 feet of coastline in Kahana is severely threatened by flooding and sea level rise. Over the last few decades, all of the condo complexes in the Kahana area have experienced challenges due to sea level rise and have had to repair buildings, seawalls, and other infrastructure. If action isn’t taken soon, there could be catastrophic property damage and environmental damage as the structures could all be destroyed and taken into the ocean.
The Kahana Bay Steering Committee
The Kahana Bay Steering Committee is kind of a "super-association" that is comprised of these nine condo communities which are threatened by the sea level rise:
- Kahana Village
- Kahana Outrigger
- Kahana Reef
- Royal Kahana
- Valley Isle Resort
- Sands of Kahana
- Kahana Beach Resort
Also, one residential parcel owner is involved in the committee.
Getting the Plan Together to Save Kahana Bay
As early as 2016, a feasibility study was conducted by Maui County to determine if it were possible to rebuild the beach in Kahana, thorough beach nourishment, and construct T-shaped groins further offshore to create breakwater that would reduce the impact of ocean swells on the beach and coastline. Since then, two separate draft environmental impact statements have been developed, with the most recent one being in November of 2021.
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The Realtors Association of Maui Official Position
“We are acknowledging and supporting the property owners located on Kahana Bay in their efforts to identify and implement solutions with regard to beach erosion and the preservation of real property. We urge County, State, and Federal officials to recognize the high priority of this issue and to cooperate with the owners of Kahana Bay properties towards an expeditious permitting process and the facilitation of appropriate remedies.”
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How Much Will The Kahana Beach Restoration Cost?
The projected costs that have been publicly displayed have fluctuated, but I’d estimate it to now look like it going to cost around 50 million in total. This will most likely be covered in part by some type of public-private partnership that will include FEMA funds, County and State taxpayer funds, and by the members of the Kahana Bay Steering Committee via assessments of the owners in the individual condo complexes involved.
Ultimately, with a new beach, the owners of any of these condos in Kahana are likely looking at some noticeable appreciation of property values along with an increase in nightly rates from tourists.
The 2nd Draft Environmental Statement by Oceanit
Coming in at over 201 pages, this report is extremely thorough. The brief description of the Proposed Action outlined in the Executive Report states that:
“Kahana Bay, Maui, is currently at a turning point for managing natural hazard risks to public safety and developed infrastructure. For decades, sea level rise (SLR), strong wave action, coastal flooding, and shoreline development have transported sand and soils away from the Kahana coast. This chronic and episodic coastal erosion has resulted in shoreline recession, beach narrowing, loss of sandy beach area, continuous beach system, and sand dunes, a reduction in public access, and increased risk of natural hazards to people, oceanfront resources, buildings, infrastructure, and amenities.
In response to the increased risk of coastal flooding, property owners along the Kahana shoreline between Kaʻea Point and Kapua Beach have installed a variety of shoreline protection structures ranging from stone and concrete seawalls to vegetated sand berms and temporary sandbag revetments. Currently, approximately 1,200 feet (ft) of shoreline has been permitted for emergency shoreline protection measures and little of the shoreline is in its natural condition. The beach erosion trend is expected to accelerate within Kahana Bay as global SLR worsens, and existing shoreline armoring prevents inland sand reserves from replenishing the beach naturally.
The adjacent community is now seeking ways to manage its coastal resources for generations to come. The Kahana Bay Steering Committee, or KBSC, represents nine condominium complexes and one residential kuleana parcel. The nine condominiums are, from north to south, Kahana Village, Kahana Outrigger, Kahana Reef, Pohailani, Hololani, Royal Kahana, Valley Isle Resort, Sands of Kahana, and the Kahana Beach Resort. The single-family kuleana parcel is located between the Kahana Outrigger and Kahana Reef.
The overall purpose of the project is to develop a sustainable and resilient approach to mitigate regional erosion along the Kahana shoreline on Maui. The project objectives are to:
• Explore, develop, and encourage a cost-effective, regional erosion mitigation solution for the Kahana shoreline that will minimize impacts to the sensitive coastal environment and enhancing nearshore habitat while protecting existing habitable structures;
• Restore and preserve the sandy beach and offshore resources for cultural, social, and recreational uses, including ocean sports, food gathering, and passive enjoyment;
• Encourage shoreline protection that is compatible with natural and existing site conditions;
• Establish a design based on accepted engineering principles and best management practices (BMPs);
• Propose a project that is compatible and consistent with Federal, State, and County regulations, policies, and plans; and
• Develop a sustainable and resilient solution that withstands projected SLR while minimizing the environmental impacts of required maintenance”
Check out the full report here.
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What's Next For Kahana Bay
As I mentioned before, to achieve these objectives the proposed action is to rebuild the beach and install T-groins offshore. For beach renourishment, a deposit of enough sand for the project was found about 300 yards offshore and is likely going to be used. As of writing this article, we still don’t have an updated timeline on when this will pass the environmental assessment and public review to begin the undertaking, but it does appear that the tailwinds are significant and we should see some new developments soon.
The report also indicated that their research shows that the improvements would actually enhance the habitat for Rare, Threatened, and Endangered species such as the Hawaiian Monk Seal and sea turtles by providing them with better water quality (a result of reduced effluent discharge and soil runoff) and the wider sandier beach would give them a better onshore habitat ‘haul off area’ to rest.
Does This Kahana a Good or Bad Place To Buy?
I personally feel like this is a great thing for owners in Kahana and also a positive for those looking at potentially purchasing in the area. Work like this has been done successfully in other parts of Hawaii and the world, so there's no reason to believe this project couldn't be successfully executed. I think there is some chance that the owners in the Kahana Bay Steering Committee may face some type of individual assessments in the future, but the value increase of the beach would offset most if not all of that.
While doing your due diligence on any condo or home on Maui you should have an experienced realtor in your corner who knows these things and can help you make an informed decision. If you have any questions about Kahana or any other area on Maui, I'd be happy to share my experience and expertise with you.
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Posted by Evan Harlow R(S) 82003 on