As one North Shore beach starts to look like its old self again, another popular beach nearby is becoming unrecognizable.
City crews are continuing the restoration project at Sunset Beach. The project began in August to help restore the area damaged by massive swells last winter.
But there’s another problem just down the road.
Over at Ehukai, longtime residents say they’ve never seen the erosion so bad.
KHON2 spoke with North Shore Ocean Safety Captain Vitor Marcal who says Ehukai is losing about one foot of sand a day beneath the lifeguard tower.
“The last three weeks and actually last week, we noticed a lot of erosion on the coastal shore here on North Shore, especially in this area, Ehukai, Gas Chambers, Rocky Point, and Kammieland,” he said.
Marcal says at that time, they noticed about half-a-foot of sand being taken away every other day, then a five-day break.
“For about five days we got a break, and it looked like [the sand] was coming back and then all of a sudden, it’s not coming back. It’s getting worse and worse,” Marcal said. “We started getting concerned. The tower guys started getting concerned, and me as a supervisor, we made the decision yesterday for the public safety and the City and County personnel safety, we had to move the tower, so we were able to move about 10 feet back.”
Marcal says he plans on moving the lifeguard tower back an additional six to eight feet.
“We want to make sure the public knows we have a lot of erosion. There’s a steep drop off right in front, there’s signs posted, there’s caution tape. If you can just stay away from that ledge where a wave can come and dig into the sand, if you step a little bit closer, you could slip and fall,” he said.
Marcal says the lifeguard tower was so close to the drop Wednesday, it would have made it hard for rescuers to do their job. “We also didn’t have sand in front of the tower, but now [after moving it back] it’s safer for them to do their job,” he said.
“Out of all the times I’ve been here, summertime, winter, big swell, no swell, I’ve never seen it eroded like this,” said Sammy Tillery, who recently moved from Oahu to Las Vegas.
KHON2 also spoke with Mike Takahashi, who has been surfing Ehukai since the ’60s.
“I’ve been surfing out here since 1966, and I’ve never seen the beach erosion like this,” he said.
As he points towards Pipeline, Takahashi says all the debris is the Naupaka (Hawaiian plant) that used to anchor the sandbanks just north of the Ehukai lifeguard tower.
“We’re looking at major damage and this never used to occur in the summer, but we’ve had this incredibly consistent northeast wind swell causing waves here at Ehukai,” he said.
“Although it’s been great to surf almost everyday in the summer, which never, never happens usually, it’s been steadily eroding – not just here, but by Monster Mush, down by Kammieland and the homes are almost ready to drop into the water,” Takahashi said.
He points towards Ke Iki Point where he says the sand had all been pushed to by the swells. North Shore residents say they’ve never seen that much sand at Ke Iki in their life.
“Where it’s usually 20 feet deep, there’s a beach. It’s unheard of,” he said.
The effects are being felt over at Rocky Point too.
“Lifeguards are now calling it Sandy Point because that pile of rocks there used to be at the waters edge. Now there’s sand all around it,” Takahashi said. “All the sand at Rocky Point is all the sand that belongs at Sunset Beach, Kammieland, and Monster Mush.”
Although pushing and moving sand is controversial, some think it needs to be done.
“I think anything you do with the sand has consequences, but I think this is one time to make an exception,” Takahashi said.
With hurricanes Olivia and Norman approaching, the storms are expected to make the situation worse.
“Considering the storms approaching, I think none of them with the direction they’re coming in, they’re not helping bring the sand back,” Marcal said.
All are in agreement that a large west swell will help bring back the sand to the area.
We reached out to the City to see if they were made aware of the situation at Ehukai. A spokesman sent the following statement:
The Department of Parks and Recreation began monitoring the area since the start of the week. Our staff has reported the erosion areas and will continue to monitor the situation. We are asking the public to avoid using Beach Right of Ways #279A and #279B, located on Ke Nui Road, between Ehukai Beach Park and Paumalau Stream. The sand below the steps of both these Beach Right of Ways have been washed away. DPR staff have placed orange netting and “No Trespassing” signs at both locations but people continue to remove them or break the netting.
– Adam LeFebvre, Information Affairs Specialist