A $2.2 million sand replenishment project in Waikiki hit a snag recently when a pneumatic blower was deemed too slow to finish the project on time. Instead, contractor Healy Tibbetts will use three specialized trucks to distribute 24,000 cubic yards of sand along Kuhio Beach, one of the most famous beaches in the world and a cornerstone of Waikiki.
"The visitors may be a little inconvenienced, but we'll continue to have the access to the beach and continue to have the pleasant Waikiki experience," said William Aila, chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Movement of sand by truck will require patches of the popular beach to close to the public from March 12 through April 14. The closures are scheduled to take place seven days a week from 7 a.m. till noon.
"We think this is the best way to do it in the least disruptive way possible," said Rick Egged of the Waikiki Improvement Association, who joined Aila at a press conference Thursday.
Since the project began January 23 sand located 1,500 to 3,000 feet offshore has been pumped onto the beach, creating a temporary mound that some are calling "Mount Waikiki." Once the sand is distributed along 1,730 feet of shoreline from the Duke Kahanamoku statue to the Royal Hawaiian and Sheraton Waikiki hotels, the beach is expected to grow in width by as much as 37 feet.
"So it's a recycling of sand rather than the introducing of new sand into the environment," said Egged.
Waikiki Beach Boys who make their living by catering to tourists say there has been more curiosity about the project then complaints.
"We tell them straight, we need more sand," says Tereise Tereise of Hawaiian Ocean Waikiki. "They say, 'Oh that's nice, we do that in some other places in the world.'"
Three large trucks are being used to move the sand into place. Unlike bulldozers operating atop the temporary mound of sand on Kuhio Beach, the trucks will have their reverse beepers disabled so that both tourists and locals are not disturbed by noise.
Hotel executives say wholesalers and travel agents have been kept abreast about the sand replenishment project so there's no surprises or misinformation.
"So when when they're taking reservations, they understand we're not closing the beach," said Jerry Westenhaver, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki.
The project is a joint venture between the state DLNR, the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Kyo-Ya Hotels and Resorts.
DLNR provided $1.2 million while the HTA and Kyo-Ya each donated $500,000. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of April.
A new web site will allow the public to track the project's progress, including daily updates. Go to the Waikiki Beach Maintenance Project Update website for more information.