HONOLULU (KHON2) — Signs of beach erosion are becoming more visible and some experts said this is just the start, as the state and county officials rush to find ways to manage the crisis that threatens public and private properties. 

A large Ironwood tree toppled into Kailua Beach on Tuesday, an effect of sea level rise and beach erosion.

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Beachgoer Sean Kaleponi said he is concerned for the safety of other people who often visit Kailua Beach Park. 

Kaleponi said, “We don’t want to see our trees fall but sometimes they happen after erosion for so many years, but we just want to make sure that no one gets hurt and it happens naturally.”

The City put up signs and yellow tape around the area of the fallen tree. Honolulu Parks and Recreation Spokesperson Nate Serota said at least five other trees were also undermined by erosion of the beach and are at risk of falling. 

10/06/2022 Kailua Beach Park fallen tree

“Basically chop them down, but leave the root balls in place,” Serota said. “Because they still hold some of the sand back. And so we want the root balls to remain in place to, you know, not exacerbate any more of the beach erosion.” 

It is not just Kailua Beach that is a concern, the Department of Land and Natural Resources recently said there are no good options for homeowners on Oahu’s North Shore. 

On Sunset Beach, some homeowners have been cited for using unauthorized materials to shore up their homes. 

The University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Ocean, Earth Science and Technology Interim Dean Chip Fletcher said there are no real solutions to mitigate beach erosion, but there could be ways to manage the impacts. 

“Private property or homes are going to experience undermining and loss as the shoreline moves to where they’re located,” Fletcher said. “But we need to allow that to happen in order for the beach to continue to exist.”

Fletcher said building seawalls to protect homes could destroy the beach. Meanwhile, the DLNR said retreating from the shore is an option no one has successfully implemented. 

Fletcher said, “We get back to the fact that this is a wicked problem. It has to be managed that can’t really be quote, unquote, solved.” 

He is expecting more ideas on how to better manage Hawaii’s shorelines will be explored during the upcoming legislative session.

As for Kailua Beach, the City is considering dune restoration to manage the rising sea level. 

Serota said, “Dune restoration is more planting native type of grass vegetation, naupaka things like that so that I can hold the sand in place and not have it get eroded out as the ties get higher and higher.”

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The large Ironwood Tree is set to be removed on Monday by contractors.