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State kills Maui seawall project after protests

The state will not build a seawall along Honoapiilani Highway near the Olowalu Store in the western part of Maui after week-long protests by environmentalists.

The state Department of Transportation had planned to build a seawall and put boulders along the highway to protect it from erosion in Olowalu in West Maui.

On Monday, transportation officials said the project will be revised by restriping the highway and moving the lanes in the mauka direction farther away from the pounding surf. The stone protection originally planned at mile marker 16 near the Olowalu General Store will not be constructed.

Environmentalists were worried about the project’s impact on beachgoers and Hawaiian monk seals that frequent the beaches there.

“We have been in communication with the public and listening to their concerns on the subject for more than a month. Today’s compromise will give HDOT Highways three years or more to work with the community to protect Honoapiilani Highway,” said Ed Sniffen, state highways division deputy director, in a written statement.

“Our mission is to ensure all of Hawaii’s highways are maintained and protected, while preserving economic prosperity and quality of life. We welcome community engagement and input as we work to keep these coastal assets safe.”

The transportation department said the modifications were made after meetings with community and environmental groups including Malama Olowalu, Maui Tomorrow Foundation and Maui residents.

As a result of the agreement, the Maui Tomorrow Foundation has agreed to drop a lawsuit filed against HDOT to stop the Honoapiilani Highway shoreline improvements project at Olowalu, according to a news release from the state transportation department.

“We are thankful and impressed with HDOT’s willingness to reach out and work with us,” said Albert Perez, Maui Tomorrow Foundation Executive Director. “The changes to the project should help preserve an important monk seal habitat and preserve access for ulua fishermen, net fishermen, and cultural practitioners. Now we can move on from the litigation process and work together to address the sea level rise concerns around the state.”

“We are grateful that our voices have been heard,” said Tiare Lawrence, with community-based hui Malama Olowalu. “Protecting the shoreline for our keiki and future generations is the motivation behind everything we do. We look forward to continuing to work together with HDOT.”

Honoapiilani Highway at mile marker 16 near the Olowalu General Store was damaged in the past by high surf and storms, necessitating emergency repairs.

For the past week, protesters have been holding signs along the highway on west Maui saying coastal hardening projects destroy beaches

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