Surfrider Foundation challenges Oahu military sea wall

HONOLULU — The Surfrider Foundation Oahu and neighbors of a military installation are challenging the proposed construction of a sea wall, raising concerns about possible impacts of the shoreline alternation.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii conducted an environmental assessment that found the wall at its Puuloa Range Training Facility on Oahu would have no significant impact on the human or natural environment at Ewa Beach, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

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The steel barrier was proposed to protect part of the Honolulu training facility from beach erosion.

The Surfrider Foundation, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for surfers, and area residents have disputed the base’s August 2019 environmental assessment of the wall projected to stand 10 feet and stretch 1,500 feet.

In a June 15 letter to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite, the Surfrider Foundation demanded a full environmental impact statement of the proposed sea wall.

Ray Aivazian III, chairman of the organization’s Oahu chapter, said the previous environmental assessment failed to thoroughly examine potential beach loss, coastal erosion and the impact on nearby reefs, surf spots and marine harvesting.

A 2015 Puuloa Shoreline Erosion Study performed for Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Hawaii, found shore-parallel structures such as sea walls “do nothing to reduce erosion of the beach,” and will likely result in the loss of the beach in areas undergoing long-term erosion.

The shoreline study recommended the base take no action beyond planting vegetation while conducting shoreline monitoring to determine whether the beach was suffering from erosion.

In a June 25 email to the Star-Advertiser, base spokesman Maj. Roberto Martins said he could not address Surf­rider’s request for an environmental impact statement until Braithwaite replied.

Aivazian said he had not received replies to Surfrider’s letter or a follow-up email.

A petition calling for an environmental impact study gathered 1,414 online and 362 hard-copy signatures.

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Ewa Beach resident Troy Guerrero said he was not opposed to the wall if thorough research could convince him “this beautiful beach will still be there for generations to come.”

“Lots of places have put up sea walls, then the beach up or down shore ended up losing sand from migration; and the beach that gets more sand, it covers up the ecosystem,” Guerrero said.

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