Council talks path erosion

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Ke Ala Hele Makalae Eastside coastal path users stroll past the Cushnie Construction crew doing work to ‘“save the county’s parking lot” at Wailua Beach Park last week, at the foot of the Bryan J. Baptiste Bridge of Kuhio Highway in Wailua.

LIHU‘E — Coastal erosion has already gone beneath the multi-purpose Ke Ala Hele Makalae coastal path at Wailua Beach, and the county knew that might happen.

“When we built the path along Wailua Beach, we knew it was subject to coastal erosion, even though the studies show that beach is accreting and growing,” said Doug Haigh of the county Department of Public Works, project manager for the path.

“We know there are extreme episodic events,” he said.

But members of the Kaua‘i County Council expressed concern that this example of coastal erosion — and that to the path at Lydgate Park due to storm water — can happen anywhere on the path.

Mitigation efforts and more-responsible building, councilmembers suggested, should be looked into.

The resolution on the table at the council’s March 11 meeting that sparked this discussion is for condemnation to acquire an easement by eminent domain fronting Islander on the Beach in Waipouli, for inclusion in the path.

The purchase of the easement at the offered $24,300 price has been approved by Islander on the Beach board of directors. However, the board does not have the authority to sign easement documents, according to a memo from Acting County Engineer Troy Tanigawa. That requires signatures by all unit owners.

“With over 270 units, it is not practical to process easement documents with signatures by all the owners, and the Islander on the Beach board of directors do not object to processing the easements by condemnation,” Tanigawa wrote.

This land that crosses the Islander on the Beach is already being traversed by the public, Haigh said, but is not fully accessible since it is unpaved.

Council Vice Chair Mason Chock expressed concern for the county purchasing properties that may be affected by sea-level rise, and wondered if there could be a contingency plan and possible mitigation efforts written into contracts.

Chock said it could be “counterproductive” to develop lands with taxpayer money that may not last.

“This (path) is important for our public for access, but we cannot continue to pay for them and not have them in the short-term, 10 years or so,” Chock said.

Haigh pointed to a recent erosion study that showed at its “narrowest corner” the path has over a 50-year life span.

“We all acknowledge there’s sea-level rise, and that erosion rate, the 50 years will probably get shortened, but nobody knows how much shorter,” Haigh said.

Mel Rapozo, a former councilmember, presented testimony calling for the council to reject efforts for the county to put a concrete structure, which can lead to elevated rates of erosion. An unimproved path, Rapozo suggested, may be a middle-ground solution.

“I was never against the bike path” when he was on the council, he said. “I was against constructing any hardened structure along the coast,” Rapozo said. “As we can see now, with erosion happening along that corridor, there are segments of the bike path that are in danger, which was predicted years ago.”

Recent erosion has wiped out a former parking area at Wailua Beach Park, next to the Kuhio Highway bridge over the Wailua River, and trees, rocks and sand have been swept into the ocean. Sections of the bike path are in danger.

Rapozo warned of having to use taxpayer money on future repairs that “should have never been built in the first place.”

“Many of you have made the trek along that coast and see the erosion happening. We have lost a lot of assets along Kapa‘a coast because of erosion, and that’s not going to stop,” Rapozo said.

The path is currently made up of concrete, due to minimum maintenance costs and accessibility, Haigh said.

Haigh said referring to concrete as a “hardened surface” as opposed to a “coastline improvement” gives a “false impression” because it implies the path would be hardening the shoreline. The county is not allowed to harden the shoreline to protect the path, per federal agreements.

Haigh defended the use of concrete.

“But I think we’re making the right decision to minimize county maintenance costs and get maximum public use, but still build it in a way if it does get damaged we can easily remove it and satisfy the coastal environment.”

Haigh explained to concerned members that state engineers were discussing mitigation to protect Kuhio Highway and the path in the Wailua area.

At the same meeting, the council received a legal document for a 2-foot-high, lava-rock separation privacy wall to mitigate the potential impact of the shared-use path adjacent to the Islander on the Beach, perpendicular to the coastline.

Haigh said the wall is set back from the coast, and will not impact erosion.

The design is still in process, Haigh said, and requested written questions from Councilmember Felicia Cowden to provide to the consultant to verify “responsible” design elements that could accommodate heavy rains and overgrowth of plants.

The resolution for condemnation is up for a public hearing on Wednesday, April 7.


Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or

  1. Prince resident March 17, 2021 4:52 am Reply

    Yes this path just costs too much money. This money is now needed on the north shore to fix the road and to stop tourists from crowding our community. The north shore is special and we need that money to support a shuttle so we don’t have that awful traffic like in Kapaa.

  2. randy kansas March 17, 2021 5:52 am Reply

    kauai is one of the fastest eroding islands in the world, this has been common knowledge for many years;
    nothing will stop it, not even tesla batteries or solar panels;

  3. Mel Rapozo March 17, 2021 7:52 am Reply

    What the article doesn’t state is that the planned construction is located within the shoreline setback area and would require a variance. The shoreline setback law was created to protect our shorelines and it would be irresponsible, in my opinion, to circumvent the law with a variance. It defeats the purpose of the law that the County created to stop private land owners from building within the setback. Shouldn’t we be leading by example?

    1. Tea March 17, 2021 11:28 am Reply

      Once again, no mention of a couple months back where the country relocated tons of sand, from in front of the now severely erroded area, to under the bridge to create an island which disrupted the natural flow of the river mouth and also speeded up the erosion process where the parking lot used to be.

      You can’t and shouldn’t mess with nature.

    2. Rev Dr Malama March 18, 2021 6:36 am Reply

      Mel, your past is catching up to you…
      Leading by example you say?
      A comedy show weekly, from kpd blue to county Council to fakebook DoOdo boys gage me rhetoric of “I told you so” but let’s keep breaking the law anyway because there’s no consequences on Kauai…. we have to many loopholes and closed door deals to protect the greedy….
      Karma is a BEACH GONE BY BY!

  4. Gary Lamouria March 17, 2021 10:22 am Reply

    We should save the taxpayers money, and leave the access path as it is ,without anymore work being done.

  5. Coolio March 17, 2021 10:46 am Reply

    Anyone with eyes could see that when they moved all the sand from that area and put it next to the bridge to “support” the bridge which by the way went back into the ocean within one hour of the last flood, that the ocean would fill that area of lost sand! No real engineer would have done this! And now they are surprised? OMG!

  6. RGLadder37 March 17, 2021 10:55 pm Reply

    $24,300 dollars purchase of the easement. What is the problem with that still if the Islander on the Beach board of directors already wants to purchased this land due to extensive erosion? Just to fix things up for people walking by it and make it more comfortable to them. This is under public works state jurisdiction. This state law that protects shoreline coastal waters doesn’t quite come in clear under this situation. Are you saying that that law prohibits any fix up, despite damages to nearby structures? And the county council voting on this issue only makes this a lame duck case for the county, but not for the state. Of which this issue deals with state issue, bike path being used. I see no deterrent factor that allows public works to just go ahead with the fix up, and do this right again. If the $24,300 is the figure you got to start on this project, then the state kicks in and does the project, not county. I see no further red tape, other than this so called coastal law of shoreline. To leave it the way it is. If you want to improve it, state supersedes county function on these matters. Public works does no good on following a state law by leaving alone coastal shorelines and not to fix it. This is the logic behind. Go ahead and fix it, because funds are there. We don’t need the county council for this issue.

  7. Rev Dr Malama March 18, 2021 6:15 am Reply

    Please do the right thing Kauai!!!
    The private sector raised the money and was responsible for the federal dot and other agencies to get approval for alternative transportation systems 30 plus years ago but the County squandered the money and blantantly rejected the input of the Hawai’ian people regarding the use of rock and concrete over sacred grounds…
    Well it’s coming back to bite you in the budget and legal obligations department after many of our conscience and forward thinking citizens who originally and selflessly worked to design alternatives have died or moved away from Kauai because of the corruption and burnout that has been inflicted on honest people who really want the best place to live….
    A simple solution is to FINISH THE PROCESS AS OBLIGATED with recycled materials that are portable, creating an elevated pathway with separate walking and cycling lanes.
    Please kokua and stop making excuses or more hewa will occur to the mismanaged coastline and reefs, which will be our ultimate demise!!!
    (It’s not rocket science)

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