Artificially expanded beachfront lots to be halted

The Kaua‘i County Council wants to halt the practice of beachfront owners to artificially expand their properties seaward with vegetation,

Through a resolution, five of seven council members threw their support behind a “weed-the-beach” program to remove “artificially induced vegetation.”

The council and its supporters view the legislation as a way to protect public access, but some beachfront owners have said the plantings would help deter erosion of the beach in front of their properties.

Councilmembers Mel Rapozo and Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who introduced the resolution, councilmember JoAnn Yukimura and council chairman Kaipo Asing approved the resolution.

Because councilmembers Ron Kouchi and Tim Bynum could not attend the meeting due to prior commitments, they did not vote.

The resolution states the Hawai‘i Supreme Court has ruled the land below the shoreline is a natural resource that belongs to the state and is held in the trust for the benefit of its people and whose ownership may not be relinquished.

The lack of public access to the shoreline is an infringement on “the fundamental right of free movement,” the resolution states.

In urging the council to take action before the start of the meeting at the historic County Building, North Shore resident Caren Diamond expressed her dismay at the ongoing land expansion practices.

She showed pictures of beach plants in front of two homes in Wainiha and Ha‘ena.

“They are still doing it,” she said. “I walk along the beach in Wainiha, and I see new plantings every day.”

She said the Wainiha property owner, who was not identified, cut down ironwood trees on the edge of his property in March 2004, put in a water hose, placed sand on coral rocks on the beach and planted naupaka, Diamond said.

In the past three years, a carpet of naupaka has spread 40 feet seaward, Diamond said.

Diamond participated in a lawsuit in which the Hawai‘i Supreme Court issued a ruling last October that the shoreline extends to the highest wash of the waves and rejected the use of plantings to determine the shoreline.

Diamond and Harold Bronstein, a Kaua‘i attorney, had challenged a decision by the chairperson of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to certify a shoreline on Kaua‘i’s North Shore based on vegetation an owner planted and propagated to spread to the ocean.

Councilman Jay Furfaro said the resolution allows volunteers and environmentalists to remove vegetation that have encroached onto public beach accesses.

Furfaro said a government employee will monitor the shoreline to “make sure the weeding of plants actually occurs below the certified property line,” Furfaro said.

“In the new county budget for the next fiscal year, there is funding for a sea grant position or a consultant,” he said.

The Kaua‘i County Planning Department will oversee that position, Furfaro also said.

State shoreline legislation gives legal weight to the resolution, he said.

Copes of the weight were sent to Hawai‘i’s congressional team, Gov. Linda Lingle, Mayor Bryan Baptiste, state Sen. Gary Hooser, (D-Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau), 14th House Rep. Hermina Morita, (D-Hanalei-Kapa‘a), 15th House Rep. James Tokioka, (D-Lihu‘e-Koloa), 16th House Rep. Roland Sagum III, (D-West Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau), and acting state Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Allan Smith.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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