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Widening of Waikiki Beach scheduled to start in 2011

LAST UPDATED: 1:52 a.m. HST, Sep 16, 2010

Question: What ever happened to a solution to the eroding sand along Waikiki's beaches?

Answer: A large-scale sand restoration project is tentatively scheduled to begin in February. The project shoreline runs from the Kuhio Beach groin to the groin at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

About 24,000 cubic yards of sand will be recovered from deposits up to 3,000 feet offshore in water up to 20 feet deep. Water will be removed from the sand in an enclosed basin within the east Kuhio Beach crib wall. Once it's dry, the sand will be placed along the beach.

The project would widen the beach by an average of 37 feet, which would bring it back to its 1985 width. While that width is not specified, the state Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands says that at high tide today near the Moana Surfrider and Royal Hawaiian "there is barely sufficient dry beach width seaward of the hotel property for one towel or beach mat."

Samuel Lemmo, office administrator, said a February start date hinges on whether the state can obtain the proper permits, including from the Office of Environmental Quality Control, the federal government and the state Department of Health Clean Water branch.

Last night, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources held a public hearing at the Waikiki Community Center regarding its application for a conservation district permit to proceed with the project.

"Because it's on the south shore, we want to do the project when the waves are at a minimum," Lemmo said. "The time to do that is from October through March. Beyond that, it'll be very difficult to work with."

The state is also seeking an option for a second beach nourishment after about a decade, which would involve about 12,000 cubic yards of sand from offshore deposits.

The project isn't expected to affect sand transport, wave-driven currents, circulation patterns, water quality or offshore wave breaking, said the state land and natural resources department.

The state last replenished sand in Waikiki in late 2006. The state spent about $475,000 at the time to replace sand on Kuhio Beach.

The cost of the project is about $2.5 million, according to a final environmental assessment filed with the Office of Environmental Quality Control.

Since the 1950s, more than 300,000 cubic yards of sand has been placed on Waikiki Beach, according to the assessment. The last significant infusion of sand was during the 1970s. Waikiki shoreline has been receding up to 2.4 feet per year.

"There is no reason to believe that this trend will not continue into the foreseeable future, and thus there is the very real possibility that without periodic beach maintenance the functional sandy shoreline will essentially disappear over time," the assessment states.

The assessment estimates a $2 billion loss in annual visitor expenditures, a $150 million loss in tax revenue and thousands of jobs lost if Waikiki Beach -- a main draw for the tourism industry -- is allowed to disappear.

This update was written by Gene Park. Suggest a topic for "Whatever Happened To ..." by writing Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail

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