Living on the Shores of Hawaiʻi: Natural Hazards, the Environment, and Our Communities.
Authors: Fletcher, Charles; Boyd, Robynne; Neal, William J.; Tice, Virginia (University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2010)

Rarely a day goes by in Hawai‘i without the media reporting on environmental issues stemming from public debate. Will the proposed housing development block my access to the beach? Is the rising sea level going to cause flooding where I live? How does overfishing damage the reef? Is the water clean where I surf? Living on the Shores of Hawai‘i discusses the paradox of environmental loss under a management system considered by many to be one of the most stringent in the nation. It reviews a wide range of environmental concerns in Hawai‘i with an eye toward resolution by focusing on “place-based” management, a theme consistent with—and borrowing from—the Hawaiian ahupua‘a system.

After describing a typical situation in Hawai‘i where a sandy beach is lost because a seawall has been built to protect a poorly sited home, the authors step back in time to trace land-use practices before and after the arrival of Westerners and the increased tempo of destruction following the latter. They go on to discuss volcanoes and the risk of placing homes in locations vulnerable to natural hazards and the potential dangers of earthquakes and tsunamis to a complacent public. Water issues, including scarcity, flooding, and pollution, are surveyed, as well as climate change and the possible outcomes of projected sea rise for Hawai‘i. The authors explain coastal erosion and beach loss and the problems of overfishing and ocean acidification. Later chapters assess residents’ risks to hurricanes, offering mitigation techniques, and provide a summary and some management conclusions.

As tensions increase because of conflicting standards, misunderstandings, and contradictory ideals and actions, we put our economy and quality of life at risk. Sound decision-making begins with asking the right questions. This book addresses these questions within the context of sustainability and thus their influence on the future of Hawai‘i.


Hawaiʻi Coastal Erosion Management Plan (COEMAP)

Studies conducted at the University of Hawaiʻi show that hardening the shoreline of Oʻahu where there is chronic coastal erosion causes beach narrowing and beach loss. Researchers have found that on Oʻahu 10.7 miles of beach has been narrowed by shoreline hardening and 6.4 miles has been lost. This is ~24% of the 71.6 miles of originally sandy shoreline on Oʻahu.

A more recent study by the University of Hawaiʻi and U.S. Geological Survey found that over 13 miles of beach has been completely lost to erosion on Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, and Maui.  Nearly all of these areas of beach loss are now characterized by waves breaking directly against seawalls or other coastal armoring.

The COEMAP provides a framework for community discussion and assessment of coastal erosion and beach loss in Hawaiʻi. The objective of COEMAP, and the public dialogue it seeks to foster, is to outline socioeconomic and technical mechanisms for conserving and restoring Hawaii’s beaches in a framework of mitigating erosion impacts and reducing exposure to coastal hazards for future generations.


On Line Sea Level Calculator

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued an Engineering Regulation (ER 1100-2-8162) on December 13, 2013, which provides guidance for incorporating the direct and indirect physical effects of projected future sea level change across the project life cycle in managing, planning, engineering, designing, constructing, operating, and maintaining USACE projects. The guidance in the regulation can be used as the basis for assessing the “potential relative sea level change” that might be experienced by projects in shoreline areas, and is required to be used for all USACE civil works.

More recently, USACE has provided online tools which can be used to adapt the circular’s guidance to reflect historic sea level rise conditions measured at either the Honolulu or the Coconut Island National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tidal gauges. The tool can be used to quickly and easily provide Oahu-based low, intermediate and high scenarios of potential relative sea level change from the present to 2100.

The Corps has published a technical paper, Procedures to Evaluate Sea Level Change: Impacts, Responses, and Adaptation, to provide guidance for engineers and scientists to understand the direct and indirect physical and environmental effects of sea level rise on shoreline projects.


The National Research Council prepared this video that explains how scientists have arrived at the current state of knowledge about recent climate change and its causes. Published July 2, 2012.