House Bill 1537 directly addresses the fact that Hawaii’s current regulations for coastal construction projects do not take sea level rise into account, a growing problem for shoreline communities which rely on natural barriers such as sand dunes for environmental protection and stability. By implementing a permit program and best practices outlined in HB 1537, project managers can anticipate the long-term environmental hazard of sea level rise and its relationship with sand dunes, thereby providing better protection for properties and occupants.

Thielen notes, “Coastal dunes act as flexible barriers to ocean storm surges and waves, protect low-lying backshore areas, and serve as sand reservoirs for beach nourishment. However, coastal dunes are highly sensitive to human activities and require limited interaction with humans to ensure their preservation.”

“As sand accumulates, plants adapted to the beach environment emerge, stabilizing the surface and promoting further dune formation.” Thielen also added. “However, as the sea level continues to rise, dunes will be more heavily relied upon. If construction codes are not updated to respond to this threat, the sand dunes affected by the current rates and methods of construction will not be able to keep pace with increasing surges and coastal erosion, resulting in catastrophic events like those on the North Shore in December 2013.”

“Beach erosion is a dangerous and immediate issue facing several coastal communities including Kailua,” says Thielen. “By working with my fellow legislators this session on HB 1537, I hope we will be able to address this problem proactively rather than waiting until our feet get wet.”

Hawaii currently faces sea level increases of 1.46 millimeters per year, but some areas of the western Pacific are seeing as much as a 10 millimeters per year. As these rates continue to grow over time, HB 1537 will help to protect Hawaii’s shoreline, one of our state’s most valuable assets, by anticipating this environmental threat.

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