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Facing Our Future: Adaptive Planning for Sea-level Rise in Maui and Hawaii Counties

Hawai‘i Sea Grant

Five recommendations are presented in this report to provide a foundation for improving shoreline planning for coastal hazards, including sea level rise, at the local level. The recommendations were developed by shoreline planners from the Counties of Maui and Hawaii and are intentionally focused on issues that can be addressed within the context of the existing County regulatory frameworks. There is an expectation by the authors that these recommendations will induce further discussion of these topics within the Maui and Hawaii County Planning Departments and/or Planning Commissions, and related actions, such as rule revisions or requests for research, will be pursued. 

As regulators on the “front lines” of coastal management, the planners who contributed to this report are uniquely positioned to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the existing County regulatory frameworks, and make recommendations to address existing and future hazards. 

Coastal hazards faced by local decision-makers, communities, and property owners include storm surge, flooding, tsunami inundation, and coastal erosion. These issues coupled with increasing development pressures make the task of managing the coast extremely challenging. Maui’s erosion rates are highest compared to the islands of Oahu and Kauai, probably in part due to higher rates of local sea level rise. On the island of Hawaii, bluff failure has become a common hazard in addition to flooding of low elevation areas where local rates of sea level rise are highest in the state. Many observations and studies suggest that the impacts of these coastal hazards will be exacerbated by continuing, and likely accelerating, sea level rise. 

The final recommendations contained in this report are intended to be stand alone documents that could each be considered individually for action by County decision-makers. The recommendations have been sequenced, from a planning perspective, based ideally on the way shoreline developments and activities would be reviewed and processed. 
• Recommendation 1: Encourage Setback Determination in Early Planning Stages 
• Recommendation 2: Strengthen the Shoreline Setback Policy 
• Recommendation 3: Clarify the Purpose and Applicability of Shoreline Rules 
• Recommendation 4: Refine Criteria for Minor Structures and Activities 
• Recommendation 5: Review Permitting Process for Emergency Repairs to Seawalls

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