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O‘ahu North Shore Home Slips Into The Ocean

February 28, 2022, 3:49 PM HST
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Photo courtesy: DLNR

When a small north shore home collapsed onto the beach early this morning, it was not entirely unexpected – but still was very shocking to all to see.

Homeowners in the O‘ahu neighborhood and elsewhere along the coastline inundated by powerful winter swells and beach erosion have been besieged for years by the specter of losing their houses and property to nature.

On Monday, Feb. 28, DLNR Chair Suzanne Case and a team from the DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands went to the scene where they found the home behind her listing at a 45 degree angle off the bluff, and its front room literally resting on the sand of the beach.

“This is a terrible situation,” Case said in a news release issued by the department. “We feel badly for the homeowner and everybody who lives along this stretch. This has been a long time coming. We knew it was going to happen eventually. It’s a dangerous situation, as debris is falling into the ocean.”

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She held up a sharp-pointed piece of wood that had been floating in the wash of the waves as an illustration of that debris risk. She said the state’s responsibility now is to try and keep more material from entering the water, where surfers and other people are frequently playing.

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“This is sad,” Case said. “Climate change, sea level rise, and wave energy in new powerful patterns. This is a beach that’s important to everyone. The houses are built on sand berms and there’s just no way they can last long-term. We continue to encourage the homeowners here to seek other alternatives.”

Homes located in the backshore of O‘ahu’s north shore are in a precarious position since geologically, many of these areas are made up of sandy storm berms. Generally, these geological features are known to be transient, and this is especially true for the north shore since it is influenced by some of the most extreme wave energy in the world.

Temporary mitigation measures, like sand burritos and sand pushing, are only able to provide temporary protection to buy time to get to permanent solutions. Case says what happened to the home on H Ke Nui Road is a real wake up call and unfortunately other homes here and along other vulnerable beaches elsewhere in Hawai‘i potentially face the same destructive fates.

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Homeowners have pushed DLNR to do more to protect their homes, but as Case explained to one property owner this morning, government can’t do everything.

“We’re up against powerful shifts in natural mechanisms and we’re all going to have to face a new future,” Case said. “Rocky Point is the tip of the spear, because the ocean is so dynamic and that makes it particularly difficult. There’s not much room to move homes, so it really is a hard situation.”

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