Sunday, April 28, 2013

Honolulu Weekly Article: Deja Vu

The Honolulu Weekly has another dispiriting update on shoreline setbacks and public beach access, related to oceanfront property owners who are using vegetation as a sneaky land grab method... which in effect, is being sanctioned by the State DLNR. As I've written before, because of split jurisdiction between the counties and State, there is no uniformity on building setbacks and zoning requirements to protect what's left of Hawaii's beaches.

On one hand, I applaud the persistence of Caren Diamond, a Kauai activist for beach access. And hats off to Joan Conrow for her continued reporting on this issue. On the other hand, it sickens me that we have to keep reliving these same battles year after year, decade after decade, while the State's largest -- and only -- daily newspaper and Honolulu TV news media give the subject cursory coverage. They've never really done an in depth series on possible solutions or even options that could address the growing concerns about preserving our shorelines and controlling commercial activities on our beaches, and in our ocean waters. Sigh.

For what it's worth, here is the link and some excerpts from the Honolulu Weekly piece. Read it and weep...

High Tide - A pending Supreme Court case pits public access against wealthy landowners and the State

By Joan Conrow

Environment / Caren Diamond thought the Hawaii Supreme Court had settled the issue when it ruled in her favor–the public beach extends to the highest seasonal wash of the waves.

The landmark case Diamond v. State of Hawaii was supposed to put a stop to the State’s use of planted vegetation to determine the shoreline, which becomes the starting line for a building setback. The practice tends to favor the landowner, especially when the plants have been cultivated.

But when the State continued to set shorelines that weren’t based on the highest wash of the waves, “We went back to the Supreme Court,” said Diamond, who lives on the North Shore of Kauai, not far from the coastline she has fought for decades to protect. The high court held oral arguments on April 4 and has not issued a decision.

Diamond is again challenging how the State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) sets the shoreline. This time she’s contesting its “single-year snapshot” approach, in which the state surveyor is guided solely by what’s visible the day of the site visit, even if historical photographs indicate differently.

“If there’s no history, then there’s no future,” Diamond said. “By manipulating the vegetation, landowners gain control, use and ownership of what rightfully are public trust resources.”

Stealing beauty

The case was brought by Kauai attorney Harold Bronstein on behalf of Diamond and Beau Blair, who have long argued that landowners are manipulating the shoreline by intentionally cultivating and irrigating naupaka and other vegetation, which impede the highest wash and hide the debris line. In this particular case, the State’s own survey had initially set the shoreline 20 feet farther mauka...
To read the rest of the article, click here.