Time for managed retreat?
If Bob Dylan sang it once, he sang it 1000 times and those times are certainly a-changin. Emmanuel Macron has just been elected president of France, professional surfer Kelly Slater is 4th in the world and the environment is threatening to eat people alive.
But what to do when the ocean’s waters rise and rise and rise and disappear whole properties? Well, Kauai County, part of the island state of Hawaii, is considering offering inland turf swaps for those who currently dwell in beachside homes.
According to Honolulu Civil Beat:
“Every beachfront house will eventually fall into the ocean,” said Chip Fletcher, associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at UH Manoa. “People just don’t realize that they’re doomed.”
Homeowners in this newly designated danger zone did not ask the county to bail them out, and several of those interviewed for this story said they’re against it. But property swapping is a concept that county planners are exploring as they consider the costs of doing nothing — namely, the loss of beaches that are a public trust asset and the displacement of local families.
“The plan would be to clear these properties and structures out of the way so that the natural erosion process can happen and we can have a beach there in perpetuity,” said Kauai County Planning Director Kaaina Hull. “If the houses are collapsing in the water, then it’s another big question of who’s going to clean this up?”
As the surf eats away at the island’s contours, one way of adapting involves demolishing oceanfront homes, businesses, hotels and roads and rebuilding them inland.
But managed retreat, as it’s called, is logistically complicated. It would require tremendous amounts of political will, community buy-in and money. And there’s no blueprint in Hawaii for implementing it on a large scale.
If you happened to live beachfront in Kauai would you trade out for a nice valley home?
Maybe a Honolulu penthouse?
Or would you do what the world’s 4th best surfer does and lay illegal tacos out front in order to stop nature in its ugly tracks?