A $2.5 million project to replenish the sand along a 1,700-foot shoreline of Waikiki Beach is finally set for completion by the first quarter of next year.
A $500,000 contribution from Kyo-ya Co. yesterday moved the state closer to its goal of widening the stretch of beach from the Duke Kahanamoku statue to the area between the Kyo-ya-owned Royal Hawaiian and Sheraton Waikiki hotels. It also has cemented the first partnership between the state and a Waikiki hotel to restore the beach.
"Through this public-private partnership we will take care of Waikiki Beach for all people of Hawaii to enjoy," Gov. Neil Abercrombie said at a press conference held in view of the replenishment site.
Kyo-ya’s check comes in the midst of its controversial request for a shoreline variance that would allow it to build a 26-story Diamond Head Tower on Waikiki Beach 40 feet from an existing sea wall instead of the required 100-foot coastal setback.
Ernest Nishizaki, Kyo-ya’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the donation is not related to the tower.
"We’d like to see the tower built, but this replenishment is not related," Nishizaki said. "We believe it’s important to restore Waikiki Beach for long-term use by residents and visitors."
Nishizaki said the company felt that it was time to partner with the state to see that their shared goal is accomplished.
The project will be the first sand replenishment work in Waikiki since a connecting stretch of Kuhio Beach was completed in 2007. Officials are taking bids on the project, which is slated to begin after the summer swells and November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Week.
After APEC about 24,000 cubic yards of sand will be recovered from deposits 2,000 feet offshore and pumped to the shoreline. The sand will be dried out in an enclosed basin within the east Kuhio Beach crib wall. Once dry, the sand will be used to replenish the beach.
"We are restoring Waikiki Beach that has eroded over the years in a way that is socially and ecologically responsible," said Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairman William Aila.
The project is expected to widen the beach by an average of 37 feet, which would bring it back to its 1982 width, Aila said. The replenishment, which will be done in stages, is expected to take 60 days, he said.
Officials said the work would be done in 50-foot increments, which will keep most of the beach open.
Sacramento, Calif., visitor Margery Cordova said yesterday that Waikiki Beach is most of the reason that she keeps returning to Hawaii.
"We like the compactness of this beach," Margery Cordova said. "We like to be with all the people."
Cordova said that she’s not really for or against the beach replenishment as long as it preserves the integrity of the beach that she loves.
"We just hope that it doesn’t change this beach," she said.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority, which also contributed $500,000 to the project, will work with the state and the hotel owners to ensure that Hawaii’s natural resources are protected, preserved and improved, said Mike McCartney, HTA’s president and chief executive.
"We want to create memorable visitor experiences and enrich residents’ quality of life," McCartney said.
Kyo-ya and the HTA were the only parties to answer the state’s call, Abercrombie said.
"If people don’t have confidence in the capacity of government to deliver, the request for support either monetary or otherwise is received skeptically or with reluctance," he said. "Now it’s up to us to show that we can do the job."
Abercrombie said he expects a successful project will lead to more partnerships.
"If all this works out, I’d be happy to see a wider beach all the way down to DeRussy and past the lagoon area," he said. "To the degree and extent that it proves possible, I’ll support it."
Abercrombie said he wants Waikiki’s shoreline returned to the roomy, vibrant place that he remembers from the 1960s and 1970s when locals and tourists frolicked on the sand by day and partied late into the night.