Coastal resources gain advocate

In an effort to improve management of Kaua‘i’s coastal resources, the County Council provided a $70,000 grant to the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant Program, making it possible for coastal land use specialist James O’Connell to set up an office on Kaua‘i.

O’Connell’s primary responsibility is to provide technical and outreach support to the county relative to the preservation of coastal resources and mitigation of coastal hazards.

“We are extremely fortunate to have someone with an expertise in coastal processes and hazards as a resource,” Planning Director Ian Costa said, noting that the Planning Department is working closely with O’Connell on determining shoreline setbacks for new developments.

County Engineer Donald Fujimoto is also getting assistance from O’Connell on Public Works projects.

“We’ve been discussing the challenges facing us in ‘Aliomanu, where a tremendous amount of coastal erosion has taken place,” Fujimoto said. “Although we’ve already implemented some erosion control measures, Jim is helping us look at all of our options.”

In addition to supporting the County Council and county departments, O’Connell is also tasked with public education.

“By reaching out to the community, I can provide residents with an improved scientific understanding of coastal processes so they are better able to provide feedback to government officials on coastal development,” O’Connell said. “I can also assist coastal landowners with making better-informed decisions to protect their properties and help young people gain an understanding of coastal hazards that they can pass on to their family and friends.”

O’Connell has already gotten to work, giving lectures on-island. This week he spoke at a workshop for middle and high school teachers that was sponsored by the University of Hawai‘i. The class was held at Kealia Beach, where O’Connell demonstrated how to measure and monitor seasonal and post-storm changes.

“I hope to set up an islandwide monitoring program like I did in other locations involving local schools, Kaua‘i Community College and coastal residents,” O’Connell said.

He has more than 25 years experience in the field of coastal geology.

Prior to coming to Kaua‘i, he was a coastal processes and hazards specialist for the Sea Grant Program at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. Concurrently, he worked as a coastal processes specialist for the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension.

O’Connell was also employed as a marine resources specialist for the Cape Cod Commission and a coastal geologist and hazards coordinator for the state of Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Department.

In addition to his work, O’Connell has written articles on coastal processes and hazards that have been published in numerous publications.

He received his bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Massachusetts and his master’s of science degree in physical geography from the University of Texas.

While pursuing his master’s, O’Connell was the recipient of a Graduate Research Award for utilizing innovative methods in analyzing shoreline change.

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