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Published on Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Hawaii's Waikiki Beach sinking amid rising tides

Lawmakers fear Hawaii's famed Waikiki Beach could soon disappear and want to spend tax dollars to protect Honolulu's prized tourism asset.

Rising sea levels caused by climate change will start to swamp the beach and cause frequent flooding in the city within the next 20 years, they fear.

A bill has been introduced for a shoreline protection plan costing an initial $4 million by state Rep. Chris Lee.

It would focus on Honolulu but could be used as a blueprint for other coastal areas across the state.

"The latest data on sea level rise is quite scary and it's accelerating faster than we ever thought possible," Lee said.

Forecasting models show extensive flooding and coastal erosion to occur over the next few years.

A report published two years ago says up to 20,000 people on all of Hawaii's islands could be impacted by chronic flooding, while ports and low lying airports are vulnerable to rising water levels.

"The loss of coastal property and infrastructure, increased cost for storm damage and insurance, and loss of life are inevitable if nothing is done, which will add a significant burden to local taxpayers," Lee added.

The report was updated last year which said original findings on flood inundation were underestimated and it could be much worse than previously thought.

"I think sea level rise and climate change impacts globally are going to have a huge disruptive effect, and having an economy that's so heavily based on tourism and so easily impacted by something like the cost of oil rising, for example, it's not resilient," said State Rep. Nicole Lowen, who backs the bill.

The bill was passed in the Hawaii Legislature and subject to some tweaks, awaits signing off by Gov. David Ige.


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