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Hawaii's Beautiful Beaches Are Vanishing

Mar 24, 2015 04:13 PM EDT
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Hawaii's beautiful beaches are vanishing due to chronic erosion, and lawmakers are trying to figure out a way to restore them to their once pristine conditions.

About 70 percent of beaches on Oahu, Kauai and Maui have experienced some degree of erosion over the past century, with a total of 13 miles destroyed to date, according to a study by the US Geological Survey.

Sea level rise is largely to blame - a phenomenon that is reportedly picking up speed and threatens coastal communities around the globe especially.

"That's just the tip of the iceberg," Sam Lemmo, administrator for Hawaii's Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, told CBS News. "Most of the beaches in the state are on an erosion basis now, and that's only going to increase in the future with sea level rise. It's going to double, it's going to possibly triple, by the end of the century."

Specifically, the shoreline could recede by an average of 20 feet in 2050, or 40 feet by 2100 if erosion rates continue on their present course.

So what can possibly be done to stop this? Government officials are tackling the problem via a new bill, named HB 444, which will hopefully grant $3-$5 million a year for what would be a new beach restoration and conservation special fund.

"It is one of the most important things that we need to focus in on, because we are known for our beautiful beaches, our sand, our environment," said Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, "and if that should go, that would be so detrimental to the economy and to the environment."

Sea level rise isn't the only thing threatening Hawaii's iconic landscape. Construction of sea walls and buildings that are too close to the shore may also be adding to the problem. If the bill passes in the Senate, the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources could better address these problems and guide future development.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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