Bill to ease seawall requirements advances through city councilUPDATED 6:40 PM HST Mar 20, 2014Video Transcript
is made to bring it back. It's a battle you're likely to see flaring up more and more... Whether it should be easier for homeowners to put up seawalls! Right now a bill easing requirements is advancing in the Honolulu City Council .... For more on this developing news we turn to KITV4's Andrew Pereira. Andrew? Paula, Yunji... right now homeowners have to go through a lengthy and sometimes expensive process to erect a seawall or retaining wall on their properties. In the battle of man versus the sea, a concrete wall is often the last resort. And there's a good reason why... They work! Problem is... The trouble tends to shift further down the coast. ART CHALLACOMBE: "THE BEACH PROCESSES ARE NOT JUST ONE WAY, THAT IS FORCES FROM THE SEA. IT'S ALSO FORCES FROM THE MOUNTAINS." Under a bill heard Thursday by the City Council's Zoning Committee, homeowners like these folks near Rocky Point could build a sea wall without receiving a shoreline variance, which the city's Department of Planning and Permitting requires. Under that process, homeowners must conduct an environmental assessment to show a sea wall won't impact beaches or cause significant change to surrounding areas. In some areas of Lanikai, sea walls are the only thing standing between the ocean and million dollar properties. ART CHALLACOMBE: "THIS BILL WOULD ESSENTIALLY CHANGE THAT FUNDAMENTAL DIRECTION FROM ONE OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION TO OWNER ACCOMMODATION." ANDREW PEREIRA: "LOCAL ATTORNEY HOWARD GREEN HELPED CRAFT THE LANGUAGE IN THE BILL AFTER THE DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING AND PERMITTING TOLD HIM HE WOULD NEED A SHORELINE VARIANCE FOR THESE RETAINING WALLS AT HIS KANEOHE HOME. GREEN MAINTAINS THAT AN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT REQUIRED FOR A SHORELINE VARIANCE IS TOO COSTLY AND HE NEEDS THESE WALLS TO CONTROL EROSION." Green did not return phone calls seeking comment, but the Department of Planning and Permitting began investigating construction of his retaining walls in October, 2011. Green applied for a variance just this month, but so far has racked up more than $37,000 in fines. Council Chairman Ernie Martin sponsored the bill and says the current system "is a complicated legal process out of reach for many land owners, especially families on the windward side who have experienced years of continuous erosion of their property." ART CHALLACOMBE: "Without an environmental assessment or other studies, dpp really does not have a vehicle to analyze the project." The bill passed first reading today, but council members Breene Harimoto and Ron Menor voted with reservations. The Department of Land and Natural Resources says sea walls and other hardened structures have a negative impact on beaches, and they want homeowners to consider less permanent protections. Paula?