UH geologist recommends stricter shoreline building lawsUPDATED 8:21 PM HST Dec 30, 2013Video Transcript
there's not much those homeowners can do... Other than take measures to SLOW DOWN the erosion. Nature's in charge here. KITV4's Justin Fujioka continues our team coverage. Justin? This expert says it's time to re-examine how CLOSE you can build to the shoreline.. Paula, Oahu's building setback law is 40 feet for existing structures and 60 for new ones. A University of Hawaii coastal geologist says that's not enough. Recent swells have washed away much of the beach near Rocky Point on Oahu's North Shore. At high tide, big surf now crashes just steps away from several homes. U-H geologist Chip Fletcher says the homes are just TOO CLOSE to the water. He says Oahu's setback law should be more like Kauai's, the strictest in the state. It takes the rate of annual erosion, and multiplies that by the expected life of a wood-frame home... 70 years. Charles "Chip" Fletcher: "PLUS THEY ADDED A BUFFER OF 40 FEET TO THAT TO ACCOUNT FOR STORM DAMAGE AND AN ESTIMATE OF SEA-LEVEL RISE." Fletcher says another long- term solution is to pay property owners to not develop the land. Charles "Chip" Fletcher: "AND THEN EROSION WOULD SIMPLY RELEASE THE SAND THAT IS UNDER THAT LAND. THAT SAND WOULD THEN FUEL THE BEACH AND YOU WOULD NOT EXPERIENCE BEACH LOSS." Buying coastal land comes at a hefty price though. Charles "Chip" Fletcher: "BUT WE HAVE THE LEGACY LANDS COMMISSION AT THE STATE AND WE HAVE SIMILAR COMMISSIONS WITHIN EACH COUNTY THAT ACQUIRE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS EACH YEAR IN ORDER TO BUY LAND TO PREVENT IT FROM BEING DEVELOPED." Something Fletcher says is the only thing we can do to prevent more scenes like this. Charles "Chip" Fletcher: "WE'VE OVER A CENTURY OF LONG-TERM SEA-LEVEL RISE IN HAWAII. BECAUSE OF CLIMATE CHANGE, WE KNOW THAT SEA-LEVEL RISE IS GOING TO CONTINUE AND IT'S GOING TO ACCELERATE. WE NEED TO PUT OURSELVES ON A MORE PROACTIVE FOOTING, RATHER THAN A REACTIVE BASIS SUCH AS WE ARE RIGHT NOW." Maui County has setback law like Kauai, but not quite as strict. Still, Fletcher says it protects homes much better than Oahu's law.