By: Jeff Tadashi
The tragic 12-story condominium tower that crashed down last week near Miami Beach was built on reclaimed wetlands and is perched on a barrier island facing an ocean that has risen about a foot in the past century.
Underneath the condominium’s foundation is sand and organic fill brought in from the bay after the mangroves were deforested. The fill is packed on top of porous limestone. It sinks naturally and worsens as the water table rises.
While first responders still search for 159 missing people, pundits are using the collapse as a Climate Change smoking gun. Putting the smoking gun aside, there are indeed parallels between Miami-Dade and Hawaii. We need to compare the two and sound a warning here.
Both Miami-Dade and Hawaii are Democrat strongholds. As such, both have political platforms supporting climate change advocacy. The problem is that the Democrat’s climate change platform does not translate to grand results. Construction standards remain the same. Litigation unravels the potential for making forward progress to reinforce construction and reduce and reverse erosive effects. Government funds always dwindle as they move from top to bottom. By the time government funding reaches the bottom for execution, there is simply not enough left to achieve grand results.
Waikiki is like Miami-Dade in other aspects. Like the condominium’s engineered location, Waikiki is not a natural beach. It’s been engineered for more than a century. It’s something that has been created by humans as a valuable asset for Waikiki and Hawaii’s tourism industry. Over 40 percent of the hotel rooms in the state, big chunk of Gross Domestic Product, jobs, and other economic multipliers depend on the state maintaining Waikiki Beach.
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It recently cost the state $3.5 million to get sand offshore to put on the beach between Kuhio Beach Park and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in a project completed just last month in May 2021. The state retrieved nearly 22,000 cubic yards of sand in shallow waters about a thousand feet offshore in order to double the width of the shoreline. Kuhio Beach, already packed with returning tourists, almost looks the same as it did before the project began. The state also recently completed a new $1.5 million groin fronting the Royal Hawaiian Hotel to maintain the sand. A groin is a long, narrow structure built out into the water from a beach in order to prevent beach erosion. It is designed to trap and build up sand that floats along a beach.
Part of the reason that Kuhio Beach already looks smaller is because of very high seasonal tides. The tide at Honolulu Harbor on Friday afternoon came close to 2.9 feet. Also, the reality is that the sand is, indeed, going out. Civil engineering experts describe that beach replenishment sand is meant to do that. The engineering design is to overfill replenishment sand on beaches so that some sand is lost on purpose. That sand goes offshore to complete what’s known as the equilibrium profile of the beach. This allows the ocean to naturally replenish the beach when seasonal tides change.
Where Waikiki most parallels Miami-Dade is behind the beach. Like the Miami-Dade condominium that collapsed, aging structures along the Waikiki shoreline are falling apart due to erosion, including a pedestrian walkway behind the Outrigger Reef Hotel that has partially crumbled into the ocean. Because of the condominium’s collapse, the city of Miami’s building department announced it will request citywide inspections of all buildings six stories or taller that are 40 years or older. Hawaii should conduct similar inspections in Waikiki and other coastal locations throughout the state.
Who gets to fix infrastructure in Florida or Hawaii becomes a tangle between private ownership and public location. This tangle becomes a legal and sort of community discussion. It gets very convoluted and is another reason why grander results are never achieved or never achieved quickly. It’s actually not clear who is responsible and should take the action and who’s going to pay for it. In most cases, there is disagreement about the nature of problem itself.
I imagine that people in Hawaii already saying and thinking “that can’t happen to us”. Democrats are probably thinking, “Yes. It can. Sea levels in Waikiki presents an opportunity to get Jobs Act funding for Hawaii’s infrastructure”. Getting more infrastructure funding does not guarantee results. Look at Honolulu Rail Transit or the H3 – both delayed for decades at the cost of billions of dollars. Where does all that money go? It certainly does not go out to sea with overfilled replenishment sand. It goes into the pockets of corrupt people in Hawaii and Florida who use the money to keep themselves in political power and while remaining in power to make themselves very wealthy.
Sea level rise, anomalous tides — they are going to play havoc with us from now into infinity. We can certainly no longer afford to allow failed do-nothing but get rich Democrat policies to play similar havoc with Hawaii.