Hawaiian Lawmakers Draft Bill to Protect Shorelines

Hawaiian landmark, Waikiki Beach, is in danger. The tourist hotspot and postcard-perfect beach and its surrounding neighborhood could be flooded as a result of rising sea levels caused by global warming.

Waikiki Beach, a Hawaiian landmark, could be in danger if lawmakers don’t take steps to prepare for flooding due to global warming. Photo Courtesy of Hawaii Travel Guide

Honolulu is expected to see flooding regularly, beginning in the next 15 to 20 years and state lawmakers are hoping to pass bills to protect Waikiki and other coastal areas from floods.

Already the area has experienced rising sea levels, with occasional flooding of Waikiki Beach and the roads surrounding it. The coasts aren’t the only areas in danger. Other parts of the Hawaiian islands face flooding, damage to infrastructure, and coastal erosion as global warming becomes more and more serious.

The push to preserve Hawaii’s beaches has two motivations. Hawaiians take great pride in their islands and want to protect the places they live in. There is also the motivation to protect beaches as that is the primary reason Hawaii receives so many tourists each year. Tourists are a major part of the Hawaiian economy and if the beaches that bring them in are underwater, the Hawaiian economy would suffer.

That’s why state Representative Chris Lee has drafted a bill to create a program to protect Hawaii’s coastlines.

“The latest data on sea level rise is quite scary and it’s accelerating faster than we ever thought possible,” said Lee in an interview with the Associated Press. The bill focuses on protecting Honolulu but if successful, could be implemented in other cities and on other islands.

Hawaii’s State Capitol, where lawmakers have approved a bill to begin a project to protect coastal areas from flooding and erosion. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Representative Lauren Matsumoto

Flooding is not Lee’s only concern. Hurricanes will become more common as global warming ramps up, and the damage caused by a major storm is estimated to cost somewhere in the realm of $40 billion.

“The loss of coastal property and infrastructure, increased cost for storm damage and insurance, and loss of life are inevitable if nothing is done, which will add a significant burden to local taxpayers, the state’s economy, and way of life,” says Rep. Lee’s bill.

In order to fund the protection project, Lee’s bill asks for $4 million from state funds and proposes a possible carbon tax, to be rolled out in the future, that would help to finance the coastal project while also cutting back on the use of fossil fuels in Hawaii.

So far, the legislation has found strong support among Hawaiian lawmakers. A version of Lee’s bill has been approved by both chambers of the state Legislature and is awaiting final approval from Hawaii’s governor, David Ige. If signed by Governor Ige, the bill will be passed into law and begin to take effect in the coming months.

This article was informed by reporting from the Associated Press.