Construction Boom Threatens Maui’s Pristine Sand

Construction Boom Threatens Maui’s Pristine Sand

Maui’s pristine beaches and vast inland sand dune system are threatened as a booming construction industry digs out tons of sand to mix for concrete. Jesse Hardman reports on the the fight on the popular Hawaiian island over the precious resource.

Mr. ROB PARSONS (Environment Coordinator, Maui County): We can see the magnificent 30 foot to 40 foot tall dunes of pure, golden sand. We’re also in the face of the breeze of the trade winds that brought the sand here tens of thousands of years ago.

Rob Parsons says more than 2 million tons of inland sand is excavated every year, and the majority of it isn’t even used locally, but gets shipped off to Honolulu.


Cattle Introduction into the Hawaiian Islands

Cattle Introduction into the Hawaiian Islands

In addition to causing erosion damage to the land, these animals also affected what foreign plants were brought to the Islands. While native koa, `ohia, uhiuhi, elama (native ebony), kauila, halapepe, `aiea, mamane and `iliahi began to disappear, other non-native species were planted as cattle feed. Ranchers introduced fountain grass, native to North Africa, and mullein. After 1905, they introduced kiawe as another cattle feed, a shallow-rooted, thorny tree that is now ubiquitous.

Sand Mining on Maui’s north shore Beaches

Beach Sand Mining on Maui’s north shore

The main reason we have beach loss today is the fact that too much sand was taken off the beaches for commercial use. Beach Sand was used in the construction industry, but mostly for sugar cane production, and agriculture. Sand was removed from the beaches and nearshore systems for decades. Beach Sand was used as aggregate for construction, and also turned into lime. Lime is used to make concrete, used as a fertilizer, and is used an additive in the sugar cane production process. The coral sand was burned in a rotary kiln to produce lime.

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Beach Sand Mining on Maui’s north shore


Beach restoration is getting more serious attention

Getting more sand
in Maui shoes

Beach restoration is getting
more serious attention as
property prices rise

By Gary Kubota

Maui correspondent

KIHEI, Maui — South Maui resident Robert Colopy smiles as he stands on a restored beach fronting his home. Truckloads of sand have been brought from a half-mile away only days ago, through a government-sponsored project.

“It’s the best environmental solution,” said Colopy, president of the Halama Street Homeowners Association. “It is the most economical solution.”

As beachfront land becomes more expensive, the idea of restoring eroded beaches is growing more attractive in Maui County, especially when those beaches have a number of public accesses, as in the case of Halama Street.

Beach replenishment is also becoming a major focus of talks and studies on Maui.

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Kanaha Beach Park

Kanaha Beach Park

Kanaha Beach Park is a long stretch of publicly owned wild coast on the North Shore of Maui (Hawaii).   It is comprised of white sand beaches, coastal dunes, wetlands, and a developed beach park.   Kanaha Beach provides recreation for many folks on Maui, including windsurfers, surfers, kiteboarders, pole fishermen, divers, canoe paddlers, campers, joggers, bikers, general beach goers, and many others.   Kanaha Beach also supports some of the last remaining strongholds of native coastal plants and animals left on sand dunes and in wetlands along the north shore of Maui.


The beautification and restoration of Kanaha Beach has been on-going for decades, and is only possible with regular support from the community.   To volunteer to help Kanaha Beach, call Jan Dapitan at Community Work Day (808)877-2524, e-mail, or visit   For more volunteer opportunities on Maui visit

The following have volunteered time, provided funding, or given resources:   Kiwanis, Kiwins, Girl Scouts, Boy scouts, Eagle scouts, Latter Day Saints, Jewish Congregation, Baldwin High School Science Club, Seabury Hall High School, Maui High School, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Americorps (local and national), Lae Ula o Kai Canoe Club, Kiteboarders Association of Maui, Maui Rotary, Goodfellow Construction, Hoolawa Farms, Maui County Public Works Department, Maui County Waste Water Treatment Department, Maui County Parks and Recreation Department, Maui County Correctional Center, Maui County Police Deptartment, Positive Outreach Initiative, State of Hawaii Emergency Environmental Workforce, United States Geological Survey Biological Resources Division, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Tri-Isle Resource Conservation and Development, and scores of other individuals, agencies, and organizations.

Like sand in an hourglass

Like sand in an hourglass

The Maui News
Sunday, February 12, 2006

By ILIMA LOOMIS, Staff Writer

WAILUKU – Maui is running out of something most people take for granted: sand.

The vast system of inland sand dunes that stretches across Wailuku has largely been covered by development, and what’s left is being mined – about 318,000 tons of the stuff dug out and used each year, 70 percent of it shipped to Honolulu. At that rate, the last available sand on the island will be gone within five to seven years, according to a report being prepared for the county…

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Stable Road Beach Restoration

Stable Road Beach Restoration

Located along a portion of Stable Road between Kanaha Beach Park to the west and Kahului Airport to the east on Maui’s north shore, the 600-foot-long beach has experienced chronic beach erosion and beach retreat within an unusually high rate of beach and land loss from 2006 to 2010. The beach supports a diversity of both historic and contemporary recreational activity and use.

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Coral Reef Ecosystems, Water Quality, and Upland Activities

Coral Reef Ecosystems, Water Quality, and Upland Activities

The health of beaches is closely tied to the health of the coral reef ecosystem, which is itself closely tied to upland land practices. Hence, effective beach management requires a geographically broader approach
known as integrated coastal zone management. Although this report has focused mainly on the shoreline area-the beach, the dunes, and the coastal plain-we have included some recommendations for more effective protection of the coral reef ecosystem and better management of upland land practices.In many cases, improper control of runoff at agricultural lands and construction sites, even those far from the coast, has degraded the water quality of coastal areas. For example, recent construction without adequate erosion control measures for the Maui Ocean Center has led to frequent silt plumes in Ma’alaea Bay and negative impacts on the coral reef. Silt diminishes light penetration and eventually settles out on
the seafloor. This harms coral and other marine organisms (e.g.,
foraminifera, an important component of beach sand) and limits safe and enjoyable ocean recreation. Runoff also transports nutrients, pesticides,
and other pollutants to coastal waters compounding the impacts on water quality. [excerpt from the “Beach Management Plan for Maui”]

Beach Restoration and Nourishment Activities

Beach Restoration and Nourishment Activities

Shoreline protection, conservation, and restoration projects are a major objective of the County’s Coastal Zone Management Program.

The Planning Department works closely with the Hawaii Office of Coastal & Conservation Lands to facilitate long-term solutions to coastal erosion and coastal hazards. Inventory of Shoreline Access Points

Sea Grant Program
Technical assistance provided through the University of Hawaii’s Sea Grant Program and financial assistance provided by the Hawaii State Coastal Zone

Management Program support a wide range of management options for shoreline protection. Site visits, regularly scheduled communication, and networking with other coastal practitioners assists Maui County in using recent research results and technologies to improve coastal protection and shoreline conservation.

Visit the Maui County website for the full story:

Cane Toads

Cane Toads on Maui

Cane Toad: Rhinella marina were first introduced to Oahu, Hawaii in 1932. 148 Toads were released by sugar growers to control sugar cane beetles. Descendants of this original introduction were subsequently spread, intentionally, throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and is a major pest on all islands including Maui. The Toads couldn’t do a good job of controlling the cane beetle as the sugar cane stalks are often towering 6-8 feet high so most of the cane beetles sitting on the stalks were out of reach for the ground dwelling toads. The introduction of cane toads was a biological blunder and failure of epic proportions. Toads in Hawaii have no natural predators, they reproduce quickly and have little or no competition. The intentional release of this alien species of cane toads by the Sugar Cane industry was an ecological disaster for the Hawaiian islands because these toads indiscriminately preyed upon local insects and native frog species. Cane Toads produce toxic compounds through their skin, so do not touch them, or let your animals lick or bite them.