Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Musings: Losing Ground

It starts with Venus, glowing like a coal in a faint pink sky, sunrise in my rear view mirror, dawn patrol gathering at Crack 14, sea still glassy, wind just picking up.

Rainbow at Princeville, billowing ehukai in Hanalei, my friend Caren, trembling a bit in the parking lot of Hanalei Colony Resort, having just been subjected to an in-your-face barrage of inelegant epithets, delivered by Freddie Kaufman, owner of one Haena lot and caretaker of two oceanfront properties.

Her “offense?” Taking pictures that document the public beach, as defined by the highest seasonal wash of the waves. Or more accurately, proving how much we're losing to private landowners, while the state looks the other way.
The swell is big, and blown out by a biting northwest wind, but it's certainly not the biggest in decades, and nowhere near “monster,” as hyped. It's about an hour past high tide.
We check out Swaying Palms, the debris line clearly evident in the adjacent lot. It's obvious the waves having been washing right under this "sleeps 14" vacation rental.
The surf has deposited a fresh layer of sand under the house, and piled up driftwood beneath the steps. 
Using an access that's supposed to be 6 feet wide, we reach the beach. 

We move cautiously along the sand, where surf debris is evident in the backyards of several TVRs.
It  reveals the true extent of how much public beach has been lost to the mini-resorts.

.
A new house is under construction, and though it's set back about 80 feet, the waves are already lapping at the lot.
Here, an undeveloped lot has been cleared makai, giving the public a big chunk of its beach back. But right next door, the same frontage has been effectively privatized.
In many places, landscaping has been ripped out by the waves. Caren recounts how Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, in discussions about the pending shoreline setback bill, asked what's so wrong with letting people replant when their vege is wiped out by the surf. Mmmm, because that would be allowing them to claim the obviously public beach.
Monk seal signage, left too close to the water line, starts floating out to sea, but a guy risks life and limb to retrieve it.

We check out the King and Princess Hale, due for a shoreline certification the next morning. The owners want to do some kind of remodel, though it's unclear if it's another round of the “unsubstantial improvement” kind that allowed them to enclose the downstairs. Hey, maybe the county's making them rip out the downstairs. I'll have to check with planning, but I'm not optimistic.
A peek at the lawn shows debris has washed into the backyard, past the proposed shoreline. Oops.
Just then, a wave washes up and flows 85 feet past the proposed shoreline, into the public access. The vege hedges interrupt the flow of water, and thus the natural movement of the sand on the beach.
Two of the limited parking spaces at this public access are being used by people staying at the adjacent vacation rental.
Next stop is Kanaha, where landowners have replaced public parking with boulders, spider lilies and no parking signs.
The beach access post has been yanked out. Translation: beat it.
The access takes us through an oh-so-attractive tunnel of weedblock, where the debris line again offers evidence that public beach has been privatized behind those black barriers on either side.
Karma never sleeps reads a hand-lettered sign intended to chasten a bike thief. Indeed.
As if on cue, as soon as we emerge, we are confronted with a graphic example of beach theft — a good 30 feet of sand covered by landscaping.
Guess that orange shoreline marker was set a bit too far makai, to the benefit of the landowner.
We walk down the beach, past Pierce Brosnan's yard. Though he's cleared some of his vege, it's apparent he's still encroaching onto the public beach. About 25 feet worth, in fact.
Not to mention his little shelter.
Back at Freddie's end, we find no furious Freddie, but the freshly deposited sand offers more evidence of vege and structural encroachment onto the beach. There's that ugly fence, the one whose removal was fought tooth and nail by a landowner's attorney, until the state finally gave up. This property also has more than 40 burials.
Right next door, another fence is obviously on the public beach. Sections are falling apart, and one day they'll break loose and become a nice hazard on the reef. And that's the other reason why you don't let people replant, JoAnn. Their stuff is just gonna end up back in the ocean.
We check out Chun's, where we have a public right of way to the shoreline. But due to fences on either side, there's no safe lateral access when the waves are big or the tide is high.

The surf is building at Haena Beach Park, which is swarming with tourists. Windblown, chilled, gritty-eyed, we head back to HCR, where Caren is parked. Enroute, we decide to make another quick stop at the King Hale to see if circumstances have changed. We run into a woman named Marilyn, who tells us she is photographing high water lines.

And why are you interested in high water lines? I inquire. Because I believe the entire public has a right to the beach, and not just the rich people, she replies. Caren introduces herself and Marilyn perks up, says she's been wanting to meet Caren, the patron saint of shorelines. We part with smiles. Some people get it. But not enough.
Caren and I relax for a moment, out of the wind and waves on a patch of sand washed clean in high tide. The fate of this bit of beach is before the Hawaii Supreme Court, which is considering Caren's challenge to the way the state has been certifying shorelines. But nature is showing us it's clearly the beach and belongs in the public trust — not as private property.

Without it, we would be unable to hang on the shoreline today, because the public beach is heavily vegetated and impassable on either side. Caren's been struggling to maintain the coastline here, often one lot at a time. Meanwhile, miles are being lost across the state as citizens stand idly by or devote their attention to other issues.

As we prepare to leave, we encounter the surveyor, who has come to check his proposed shoreline at the King and Princess Hale. He's saying one thing, nature is saying something else. Wonder what the state's shoreline certification guy will say when he looks tomorrow morning. 

Turning into HCR, Caren points out a young man walking across the parking lot. “That's the guy who uses the turkey shit in his landscaping. He told me so. He's planted over 30 properties. Now he's getting paid to remove some of that vegetation.” 

Caren and I say a hui hou  and I head east, through Hanalei, which has become virtually indistinguishable from any other beachy tourist town, with its throngs and the smell of cooking grease hanging heavy in the salt air. 

Waiting in a string of cars, I see a dozen gallinule foraging in a fallow taro field alongside the road. At least the native water birds are doing well, I think, though some taro farmers hate them for it.

There's a half-mile line of traffic on either side of the bridge, folks wanting to get in and out of the valley, and as I cross, I hear Shilo Pa singing in my head: “Whatever happened to Hanalei.”

And I remember what Caren said, right before we parted: "The North Shore is under assault."

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hopefully this high surf will cleanse the Hanalei Bay. Natures way of doing business.

Anonymous said...

It will just get dirty again because of MAN'S way of doing business. they march against gmos with no proof of harm but they let the beaches disappear in front of their eyes. Stupid, stupid sheeple. Baaahhhh. Following posers and activists begging for $ on facebook. SHAME!

Anonymous said...

good dialogue Joan! regardless of impediments by the rich to encapsulate themselves on their little choice chunk of our beachfront, we have to stay in fighting mode or forever lose the bout.
We use to yank naupaka artificially replanted throughout Oahu and Kauai beach fronts whenever we found it. Blatant action against blatant hubris.
Look at Kauapea, owners blocked 2 know easements without regard or backlash, lawyer teams got it done with ease. Fight the good fight every momnet

Anonymous said...

No proof about GMO dangers? Head in the sand (no pun intended)! Proof exists all over the world except in America where corporations control our regulatory agencies , our government and the media. If you are a true poe ke aloha aina, all attacks on aina are as important as the other, whether its GMO or public beach access. Mahalo Joan for this visual documentary. Appreciate the efforts.

Edward Coll said...

Great photo essay Joan. "Patron Saint of the shorelines" a well deserved title for Caren's years of dedication to this important issue largely ignored by many self-described activists.

Anonymous said...

The taking of access and beaches wouldn't have happened in the old days with the pickups full of Primo Warriors. Of course we wouldn't have the GMO issue either, there would be plenty of pushy newcomers, niele liars and bigmouths, driven to the airport and "no come back, eh"....Holy Puffing Pakalolo, Batman, can they do that, just kick me out, li' dat? Yes, they can, Robin, it's li' dis, who's gonna stop 'em?-

Anonymous said...

Great spoof. Reminds me of Spinal Tap. Will Tina Fey play the part of you ?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Caren was " trembling a bit in the parking lot of Hanalei Colony Resort", because she nearly ran down with her car, a pedestrian on the beach access road.
......essay?.....better to be thought of as a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Simply put, the vegetation that is presently on "your" beach saved the beach from being washed into the ocean. What exactly is it you are trying to accomplish here?.....

Anonymous said...

If it has to be explained you just don't get it. It's every ones beach - get it straight.

Anonymous said...

.....the folks that own beach property and are good stewards of the land, plant to protect from erosion are "bad guys'??.....what are you so angry about?....it's a free country...buy your own place...

Joan Conrow said...

Those beaches don't need to be protected from erosion. They need to be protected from people who built their houses too close to the shoreline and now wish to armor the coast to protect their investments.

Anonymous said...

maybe for some of those who live there...it isn't an "investment" but a love of Kauai, it's beaches and it's aloha.....think the best of people...and maybe that's what you will find...aloha

Joan Conrow said...

Except very few people actually live there, and nearly every house is a commercial property (TVR), not a family home.

Anonymous said...

"Good stewards of the land." Are you kidding me?
"Planting naupaka to prevent erosion." Ya, right.
"It's a free country, buy your own place." I thought the beach belonged to all of us.

Ok.
So people who own properties along the beach "the good guys", have planted, watered and extended their properties onto the beach, FOR their love of the AINA?
FOR the benefit of our beloved OHANA? I suppose they put the black tarps along the right of ways to the beach to benefit HUMANITY as well!

I love ya, Freddie, but I think you're jaded on this issue. If you weren't bosom buddies with some of the landowners, you'd be pissed about it too.

Anonymous said...

Joan. Would you agree that all seawalls should be removed along with all breakwaters ?

Anonymous said...

Wow! Planting may slow the process but from the pictures it looks inevitable.

Anonymous said...

Damn good question are seawalls and breakwaters bad or just plants

Joan Conrow said...

In general, anything that interferes with the natural movement of sand, be it vegetation or structures like seawalls, tends to hasten erosion and escarpment and obstruct lateral shoreline access.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine what Nawiwili would look like without a breakwater ?

Anonymous said...

There would be little if any sand at Kealia beach if not for the rock jetty Just look on ten north side of the jetty

Anonymous said...

I drove out to Haena yesterday. By my estimation, the highway should be gone at the far side of Hanalei, again just past Wainiha Store, and finally just before Hanalei Colony Resort. Not to mention the erosion that's bringing down the whole road above Lumahai. Arguably, the highway is the worst offender. Once the road is gone, all property will be abandoned, and you can have the whole neighborhood to yourself. Just what you've been wanting all along Caren.

Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact I can imagine NAWILIWILI without a jetty. It was a Hawaiian fishing community before the dredging of the harbor with thriving aquaculture and a natural wetlands that filtered sediment that would otherwise end up on the reefs. I can't wait till all those homes are reclaimed by the ocean and the place becomes a wild coastline again.

Anonymous said...

That won't happen on your lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Joan, you said "The swell is big, and blown out by a biting northwest wind, but it's certainly not the biggest in decades, and nowhere near “monster,” as hyped."

But Tom Birchard, a senior forecast for the National Weather Service in Honolulu said "Wednesday's were the largest waves of his almost 20-year career."

http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-hawaii-surf-20140122,0,7724091.story#axzz2rC5bpDQA

Joan Conrow said...

It appears Tom was on Oahu. Plus coastlines get hit different ways, depending on the direction of the swell and how it wraps.

Anonymous said...

Joan,
All those photos of the debris line and wash that you and Caren took don't count as a high water mark for defining ownership IF it was the result of a storm. You know that better than anyone.

§205A-1 "Shoreline" means the upper reaches of the wash of the waves, other than storm and seismic waves, at high tide during the season of the year in which the highest wash of the waves occurs….”

You are trying hard to pretend that Wednesday’s storm wasn’t a major storm.

The County of Kauai, Surfrider, and the DLNR all agree that this was a powerful storm. It blew over pot-a-potties at Black Pot and high surf washed through beach parks and over roads including Kuhio Hwy in Haena and Weke Road in Hanalei. It was so severe that they closed ALL the beach parks in the north shore, including Tunnels and Ke’e. The power index of Wednesday's waves were unprecedented. This was certainly no "magic wrap that spared Haena" or Oahu only only storm.

http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/surf-s-up/article_a55ddf00-83fa-11e3-9209-001a4bcf887a.html

This was truly monster surf. Trying to pretend it wasn’t undermines your credibility.

Joan Conrow said...

We've been through this before. The reference is to named storms only, like Iniki.

What's more, as I've repeatedly documented on my blog over the past 7 years, we've seen this kind of run up even during smaller surf events.

And as today's Hawaii Supreme Court decision affirms, the state must consider historical evidence in setting shorelines.

Put it all together and it's quite clear the public trust resource is being stolen by private landowners.

ccpanel said...

how about the St regis in teh little cove to the right of hanalei bay?
they have been steadilly taking over what used to be a large public beach.
now I see on our latest visit-they have started chaining kayaks to the palm trees and storing gear on the beach.
they even planted grass about 30 feet from where it used to be bare sand.
chairs everywhere, they took down the iconic hammock and cut the palms too since im sure they were blcoking a view.