Officials to address beach erosion

KALAHEO — In a few days, state officials will open a bid for a contract to replenish the sand on the beach west of Kikiaola Small Boar Harbor in Kekaha, and also fix damages to the harbor’s breakwall.

“Construction, pending the receipt of the permits, is scheduled to start in December 2013, and the completion is scheduled for June 2014,” said engineer Eric Yuasa, of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

The 100 percent state-funded project includes moving 80,000 cubic yards of sand from Waimea Beach, east of the harbor, to the shoreline west of the harbor, which has been heavily eroded in the last few years, Yuasa said at a public meeting at Kalaheo Neighborhood Center Thursday evening.

Additionally, the root of the harbor’s west wall has been damaged by wave action and is in need of repairs.

Chris Takusha, of the consultant firm Oceanit, said it’s “really important” to stop the beach erosion in front of the west breakwall, to protect a graveyard behind the wall. So the project calls for throwing “a whole lot of sand” in that area to shield the wall from wave action.

The bid for the $1.2 million project is going out as a package: $900,000 is for the sand bypass portion, and $300,000 is to fix the breakwall. But Yuasa said that depending on the bids, the contract could be awarded to two different companies.

The timeline for completion will depend on which contractor will secure the work, according to Yuasa. He said if a contractor comes in with two or three trucks, it would take about six months to finish the sand relocation. If six or seven trucks are used, then the work would be shortened to two months.

But the timeline also depends on the size of the trucks that will be used. Yuasa said it will take anywhere from 4,000 to 8,000 loads to move all the sand.

“The window is very narrow, we need to work in the winter months, because that’s when the surf is smaller,” he said. “We cannot work during the summer, because if we put the sand in, it will just wash out.”

A study from the Army Corps indicates that 5,000 cubic yards of sand should be moved from east to west of the harbor each year, according to Yuasa. But it is more practical, he said, to move 15,000 to 20,000 every three to five years.

Takusha said the beach erosion is “definitely” an ongoing problem.

“This is not a permanent fix,” he said.

There is also a separate problem, not coming from forces of nature — sand theft.

Yuasa said he visited Waimea Beach Thursday, and noticed that people have been harvesting the sand there, which is illegal. He said he saw several pits dug out, indicating that sand is being removed.

The sand and silt accumulating inside the harbor cannot be used to replenish the beach, according to Yuasa.

He said a ditch coming from nearby agricultural fields brings pesticides and heavy metal into the harbor. Chemicals bind easier to fine silt than to coarser sand, he said, so the silt is unsuitable for beach nourishment.

But Yuasa said he would encourage contractors to take it away once it’s dredged out of the harbor.

Other harbor issues

Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor was originally built in 1959. Five years later, a 150-foot-long spur was built at the harbor’s entrance to shield boats from the swell while exiting the harbor.

After boaters complained a few years ago, of dangerous conditions due to shallow depths inside harbor, state and federal agencies teamed up for significant improvements to the harbor.

In 2009 and 2010, the Army Corps dredged an 11-foot-deep, 700-foot-long channel at the harbor’s entrance, and the state dredged a 7-foot-deep area in front of the harbor’s boat-ramp.

The Army Corps also rebuilt 835 feet of breakwater, and raised its height 3 to 4 feet; and removed the spur at the harbor’s entrance.

Yuasa said the Army Corps maintains that wave models show there should be no increase in wave action inside the harbor. But fishermen are saying that since the spur was removed, larger swells sneak inside the harbor, making it too dangerous to load and unload boats.

Additionally, the spur gave boaters a safe haven to time exiting the harbor in between swells. Without the spur, and with a taller breakwall, it has become too dangerous to exit the harbor, they said.

Sand and silt has settled where it had been dredged three years ago. Yuasa had a study in hand showing the depth at the harbor’s entrance year ago was between 6.2 and 4.1 feet. But those are June 2012 numbers. Yuasa and some of the fishermen said it’s worse now.

The fishermen are saying they can now walk across the harbor’s entrance, with the water line on their chest. Some of the larger boats, they said, cannot go out during low tide, or run the risk of running aground.

Yuasa said the Army should be dredging the sand inside the harbor every year to maintain it deep enough to be safe, but without an emergency plan, it could take three to five years until the Army Corps dredges the harbor again.

On Oct. 8, 2012, DOBOR Administrator Edward Underwood sent a letter to Lt. Col. Thomas Asbery, of the Army Corps, notifying him that the shallow depth at the harbor’s entrance channel is navigational safety hazard.

Underwood also told Asbery that harbor users want the spur reconstructed, and the east breakwater height should be decreased to allow boaters to assess ocean condition before leaving the harbor.

“We’re still waiting for the Army Corps to respond,” Yuasa said.

There will be another meeting in October or November, with the exact date and location yet to be announced.

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