Updated: December 8, 2023
Some residents want the state to draw a line in the sand when it comes to how much taxpayer money will go toward costly beach nourishment in Kāʻanapali that isn’t guaranteed to work.
“Previous projects have proved to be a waste of tax dollars,” Maui community organizer and Lahaina native Tiare Lawrence said on Wednesday. “There are better and less invasive ways to mitigate sand loss.”
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources in a meeting this Friday will hear a plan to share costs for Kāʻanapali Beach Restoration Project. The project — which has a price tag of just over $10 million — plans to bolster the shoreline by pulling sand from offshore.
If the agreement is approved Friday, Kāʻanapali Operations Association would pay $5.05 million for the work, and the state would pay for the rest.
The beach restoration project seeks to bring to shore 50,000 cubic yards of sand, which will nearly double the width of Kāʻanapali Beach – from 41 to 78 feet – in order to mitigate erosion. Another 25,000 cubic yards of sand would be used to raise the beach berm by 3.5 feet along most of the Kāʻanapali Littoral Cell (between Hanakaʻōʻō Point and Puʻu Kekaʻa). In all, about 75,000 cubic yards of sand would be moved from an 8.5-acre sand field located about 150 to 800 feet seaward of Kāʻanapali Beach.
About six months ago, Kāʻanapali trees, sidewalks and other infrastructure toppled into the ocean. The swell-induced damage increased tensions among those calling for managed retreat — and others saying the state needs to move forward with long-planned beach nourishment. Kāʻanapali has long suffered erosion events, though, and the state environmental impact statement documents past efforts, including sandbags and emergency erosion protection skirts, to mitigate erosion.
The current Kāʻanapali Beach Restoration Project has gotten pushback from residents who say that erosion mitigation hasn’t worked in the past, hotels that hog beach access will benefit the most and the project will have negative environmental and cultural impacts.
Kekai Keahi, Lahaina resident and community organizer, in the past told Maui Now that residents are planning legal action and will do anything necessary to stop the plan from moving forward.
He and other concerned residents, including members from three area canoe clubs, are worried the work will smother the reef, permanently damage delicate ecosystems and alter the only state-sanctioned canoe race location on Maui.
However, the hotels and the state have insisted the plan will work and tout the “successful” 2012 Waikiki Beach Restoration Project as a model for the Kāʻanapali public-private partnership. Plus, Kāʻanapali hotel representatives have said the tourism industry brings in big dollars for the state and county government, so the West Maui coastline deserves attention.
Maui County hotels often have the highest revenue per available room and average daily rates among all four counties, according to monthly state data.
Kāʻanapali Resort opened in 1962, and today the resort is managed by Kāʻanapali Operations Association.
The area includes six major hotels — Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Sheraton Maui Resort, Maui Marriott Resort & Ocean Club and Royal Lahaina Resort — along with five condominiums, Kaanapali Alii, The Whaler on Kaanapali Beach, Outrigger Maui Eldorado, Aston Maui Kaanapali Villas, and The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas. Golf courses, restaurants, shopping malls and other infrastructure line the resort area that holds more than half a million visitors a year.