How Fast is Maui Sinking? (Why Beaches are Eroding)

More than 85% of Maui’s beaches are currently facing incessant erosion, and deterioration is worsening at an alarming rate. Some beaches are feeling the heat more than others.

Let’s talk about the beaches of Maui, and what the future holds for them.

To help you understand it better and learn more about it, we shall be listing out the reasons for the erosion, and what authorities are doing to stop it.

Kaanapali Beach at Sunset in Maui.

Why Are Maui’s Beaches Eroding?

Erosion is a natural process. Over time water and wind wash away the sand or pick it up and remove it from the beaches. Given enough time—sometimes quite a bit of time—a once spectacular beach disappears.

Man-made structures often accelerate erosion as well, because these structures, like bathhouses, prevent the depositing of sediments that serve as breakers against the water.

A few years back, the erosion got so worse that a restroom facility of Baldwin Beach Park suddenly sank into the ocean. Just last year, the owners of the facility had to remove one of the beach’s pavilions because the ocean dangerously closed in on the area.

Plus, activities like also interfere with natural pathways for water and redirect water flow to erosive areas.

Take all the above and then throw in an annual hurricane season, and other large storms, which are notorious for pushing erosion-halting sediment beyond the littoral framework of the shoreline.

How Does Climate Change Affect Maui Sinking?

A tragic combination of rising sea levels and an increasing frequency of storms as a result of climate change are accelerating the rate of erosion of many Maui beaches.

But, Maui is not the sole victim of this natural degradation.

According to a recent report by ProPublica, three of the major islands in Hawaii have lost approximately one-quarter of their beaches. Sea levels in Hawaii are rising by at least an inch every four years.

The Hawaii State Energy has reported that losses resulting from the rise of sea levels are already up to $19,000,000,000.

According to the Mayor of Maui, Mike Victorino, the beach erosions happening in Maui are likely to cause “$3 billion loss in assets over the next few years,” It is no surprise that Hawaii has declared a state of climate emergency. He added, “Unless we take action today, we will lose all the beauty, many of our beaches throughout not only this state, throughout the world.”

What Has Been Done To Stall Beach Erosion?

Private bodies and government officials are making individual and joint interventions to prevent further loss of property to beach erosion in Maui, and Hawaii at large, by building seawalls and sandbags around properties and coastlines.

Unfortunately, sandbags have been found to cause bigger problems that ultimately accelerate the erosion process. After long use for like a few years, sandbags tear up the seabed and hinder the replenishment of natural sand to the coastline.

As a result, more complicated structures, like jetties, are being constructed by private individuals whose properties are under threat of Maui beach erosion.

Jetties are more effective than sandbags and seawalls in protecting the shoreline from erosion. They play the dual purpose of holding natural sediment and recirculating it to maintain the beach’s natural topology.

Other residents are leaving the beaches altogether.

Lauren Blickley, the regional manager of an environmental organization in Maui called Surfrider Foundation, stated, “To permanently solve the issue that we are dealing with… we have to move away from the ocean. The ocean is always going to win. Whether it wins this year or in 10 years or 20 years is the question.”

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