$500K to Enhance Coastal Resilience in West Maui

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$500K to Enhance Coastal Resilience in West Maui

NOAA’s Regional Coastal Resilience Grants Program will award PacIOOS with $500K to develop a high-resolution, real-time wave run-up forecast and notification system for West Maui’s coastline. PacIOOS will also model a suite of inundation planning scenarios that take rising sea levels and increasing wave energies into account. Site-specific, short- and long-term forecasts, will strengthen West Maui’s coastal community and economy by enhancing preparedness and response operations, and by informing future land use planning.

Wave inundation and flooding impact shoreline

A combination of high water levels and large wave swells can result in significant coastal erosion, damage to infrastructure and properties, and land-based sedimentation that impairs coastal water quality. The State of Hawaiʻi has experienced an increase in wave plus tide-driven flooding in recent years, and these events are expected to grow in numbers and duration due to sea level rise and changing wave energies.

Honoapiilani Hwy, Maui

Wave inundation at Honoapiʻilani Highway. Other sections are actively undermined by erosion and waves. Credit: Asa Ellison.

“We are affected by chronic shoreline erosion in West Maui. Some of the properties that are built close to the shoreline are literally on the brink of falling into the ocean. Flooding and wave inundation is also a major concern for our infrastructure, including Honoapiʻilani Highway, which is the only reliable access to this part of the island. These roughly 21 miles of coastline are extremely important for Maui’s economy, local businesses, homeowners, and visitors, and yet they are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels and wave inundation,” describes co-investigator Tara Owens, University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program.

New tools provide site-specific forecasts for West Maui

Co-investigator Dr. Douglas Luther, Department of Oceanography at the University of Hawaiʻi School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), explains, “West Maui is exposed to both large north and south swells that wrap into the coast in odd ways due to the ancient offshore reef topographies. While certain parts of the shoreline might not see any impacts, other sections can be appreciably flooded. Our model will incorporate relevant offshore and shoreline wave propagation characteristics to show the varying levels of vulnerability along the coast during each swell event.”

Sandbags in Kahana area

Sandbag barrier in Kahana where condominium properties are threatened by erosion and high waves. Credit: Tara Owens.

Principal Investigator Melissa Iwamoto, PacIOOS, notes, “We will work closely with coastal managers, emergency managers, property owners, and local residents on Maui and around the State to ensure that data and tools are easy to understand and suitable for short- and long-term decision-making. The goal is to better understand site-specific risks and vulnerabilities so that such stakeholders can integrate the information into community planning, policy-making, and hazard-related ordinances.”

All products will be available to the public, free of charge

The three-year project is expected to start in October 2017. Project partners include the University of Hawaiʻi SOEST, Hawaiʻi Sea Grant, State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources, and County of Maui. Citizen scientists will also participate in the project to validate and help improve the utility of the forecast through photo surveys. All data and tools will be available online for free.

NOAA’s Regional Coastal Resilience Grants Program received 167 proposals in 2017 and provides $13.8M funding to 19 projects nationwide. NOAA, through cooperative resilience grant programs in both NOAA Fisheries and NOAA National Ocean Service, has awarded $34.7M million overall in coastal resilience grant funding from 2015 to 2017.

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Did you know?

PacIOOS is the first regional association that was certified as a Regional Information Coordination Entity (RICE) by the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). Certification provides NOAA and its interagency partners a means to verify that a regional association’s organizational and operational practices, including data management, meet recognized and established standards set by NOAA.