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Pilot technology aims to save Wailua Beach

WAILUA — The state is trying to rebuild Wailua Beach.

It’s a process that’ll include new technology that will trap sand and renourish the eroded beach that threatens Kuhio Highway, according to the state Department of Transportation.

It’s called a Sandsaver, and is made of polyethylene plastic and concrete. The sloped device has holes in the unit which allow waves to flow through. The holes have small channels that trap the sand on either side of the device.

“Essentially, (the technology) promotes the restoration of the beach through the natural wave action of varying sand on the beach and traps the sand on both the mauka and makai side of the device, and proposes to build the beach back,” state DOT Kaua‘i District Engineer Larry Dill said last week at a community meeting to discuss the latest Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) priorities.

Erosion of Wailua Beach, which is coming up to the right-of-way owned by the state, has already undercut portions of the county’s bike path. Currently, sandbags have been placed along the beach to protect the structure that abuts the highway.

The Sandsaver was first used in Keyna in 2020, according to manufacturer Granger Plastics Company, and within four days the system was able to accumulate 1,500 cubic yards of sand in and around the system.

Ed Sniffen, state DOT deputy director of the Highways Division, said this beach-renourishment is meant to last long-term, as opposed to dredging, which hasn’t proven to last. A soft revetment of boulders along the slope with mixed concrete is an idea the state is attempting to mitigate the problem without fully hardening the environment.

The project, using emergency-relief Federal Highway Administration money given for recovery from the March 2021 storms, is estimated to cost $1.4 million for the 1,700-foot area, Sniffen said.

The project will also utilize the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa’s College of Engineering, which will monitor the project on land and at sea.

Wailua Beach is the pilot site for the project, but the state has already identified Waikoko on the North Shore and Makaha Beach on O‘ahu as other potential pilot locations.

As the department continues the permitting and environmental process, residents will get more information, Sniffen said. But if everything keeps moving along, this project could start by the end of this year.

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Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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