The North Shore of O'ahu is one of the most unique and special places on Earth. The majority (73%) of beaches on the North Shore, however, are presently undergoing chronic erosion. To compound this situation, nearly a third of the beachfront homes on the North Shore sit within 20 feet of the shoreline. Protection of private property has resulted in further loss of the public beach and impacts to the coastal environment.
The North Shore Coastal Resilience Working Group (NSCRWG) was launched by the Surfrider Foundation, Surfrider's Oʻahu Chapter, the University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College, and consulting firm SSFM International to proactively address accelerated beach loss and improve community resilience on the North Shore. In 2021 and 2022, the NSCRWG sought to facilitate meaningful, community-driven discussions related to the future of coastal management on the North Shore. The Working Group released a report detailing critical concerns and recommendations for immediate action.
During these conversations, the group identified seven critical concerns that must be remedied to proactively and holistically support the North Shore community adapt to severe coastal erosion. While the issues are specific to the North Shore, they are relevant to beachfront communities statewide and may serve as a starting point for similar discussions in other communities.
1. Immediate erosion threats and impacts to homes, highways and public infrastructure
2. Lack of options and transparent, publicly-shared guidelines for homeowners impacted by shoreline erosion
3. Increasing erosion and flood risks with climate change and sea level rise
4. Damaged and limited public beach access due to erosion, beach loss and inappropriate response measures
5. Environmental impacts of unauthorized and expired materials on the shoreline
6. Lack of cohesive policy framework and financing mechanisms for managed retreat
7. Absence of a comprehensive coastal erosion strategy and long-term vision for the North Shore
In addition to the critical concerns outlined above, the NSCRWG also identified six recommendations for immediate action to be taken by relevant organizations, agencies, and policy-makers.
1. Improve guidelines and limitations for emergency shoreline erosion management and strengthen enforcement against unauthorized work and materials
2. Establish a statewide managed retreat program, with the North Shore as a pilot area, to provide a pathway for affected landowners to voluntarily vacate affected properties and utilize shoreline areas for public benefit
3. Improve interagency coordination for shoreline erosion and flood management, which overlaps jurisdictional and ownership boundaries
4. Develop a beach and dune management plan for North Shore beach parks and accessways, including guidelines that may be transferable to efforts fronting privately owned lands
5. Develop a comprehensive climate change and sea level rise vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategy for the North Shore
6. Continue the NSCRWG and expand community discussions, engagement and outreach
Utilizing the concerns and recommendations identified in the Working Group Report, next steps include: