HONOLULU (KHON2) — The 140-foot-long breakwater in front of a popular swimming spot near Diamond Head is one step closer to being taken down.
The Board of Land and Natural Resources voted to approve taking down the break wall fronting Shangri La after decades of injuries.
The history of the area dates back to the 1930s when the breakwater was built to create a boat basin for the woman living at the home at the time.
Since then, it has become a popular swimming, snorkeling, and diving area and according to the state, “social media has glamorized unsafe activities, which appears to have increased the number of people going to the area, including the promotion of organized gatherings,” the Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a press release.
The state said at least three people have been paralyzed for life and other serious injuries have resulted from people jumping or diving from the breakwater and sea wall.
And despite all the warning signs, and “no diving” signs, lawsuits were filed against the property owners.
The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art has posted warning signs, hired private security, called police, and erected a six-foot-high fence on the walkway to discourage unsafe activities, all of which have failed to deter reckless behavior.
According to the state, efforts to dismantle the breakwater started nearly six years ago when DDFIA submitted a Conservation District Use Application to remove the breakwater.
While the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands recommended approval of the application, the land board in 2018 denied the CDUA based on testimony from opponents.
During the BLNR hearing on Friday, former DLNR Chair Suzanne Case testified in favor of the break wall coming down.
This is the right thing to do, there have been three people that I understand have become quadriplegics over the decades by jumping off this wall here, that’s from the neck down, that’s ruining your entire life and your families life because you thought it would be cool to jump off this wall.”Suzanne Case, DLNR Chair
The current DLNR administration said the DDFIA conveyed the deed to submerged lands and improvements associated with the breakwater to the State and agreed to contribute $1 million towards the dismantling and construction of the re-naturalized shoreline.
After review by the DLNR State Historic Preservation Division and a public hearing, the DLNR Land Division submitted a final proposal to remove the breakwater.
In its submittal to the land board, OCCL wrote:
“To address and deter the unsafe behavior, the applicant proposes to dismantle the Diamond Head Breakwater and to relocate the boulders to create a natural rocky shoreline fronting the Shangri La seawall. The proposed sloped re-naturalize shoreline is to deter the current risky behavior by members of the public, and to return the near-shore area to a more natural state. The stated purpose is to address public safety issues while maintaining public access to submerged lands.”
If the project receives all regulatory approvals and funding, construction work would take approximately six to nine months. During the construction period, best management practices would be implemented to avoid or minimize possible short-term effects on marine resources, and water quality.
The state said the rocks are noticeable in size and would look like a natural rocky shoreline where one BLNR board member said during the hearing, “it would be clearly visible, there’s a rocky shoreline and in my opinion, would completely eliminate anyone from thinking they can jump in.”
Others think it would be more dangerous and said south swells would bring in surges for swimmers who would now have a strong current, and high tide would possibly hide the rocks visibility.
Honolulu Ocean Safety said they’ve noticed a change since the DDFIA added the six-foot-plus high fence to prevent people from jumping and diving into the area, although now people jump from on top of the fence.
“In my experience here since that went up, is that calls to that area definitely declined,” said Lt. Dennis Coglietta.
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The state said it still needs regulatory approvals and funding but if approved would take six to nine months to complete in which the area would be closed at that time.