What is a Shoreline?
Legalese obfuscates the obvious. But we know one thing for sure — our beaches are disappearing
June 23, 2004
‘It’s become a full-time job,” said Caren Diamond, strolling down Kaua‘i’s Camp Naue
Beach in Hä‘ena, “but this shouldn’t be done by volunteers, it’s the state’s job.”
Since 2000, Diamond, a North Shore resident for 24 years, has taken it upon herself to
save one of Kaua‘i’s beloved shorelines. She regularly photographs the high wash of
the waves on Hä‘ena’s coast. She uses them as evidence, when filing appeals with the
Department of Land and Natural Resources, to try to enforce accurate shoreline
This is not “a correct shoreline certification,” stated Diamond, standing in front of an empty lot with pink, beribboned stakes
sticking out of the ground, marking the proposed shoreline. Sand covers part of the lawn mauka of the stakes.
“If the waves don’t come up here, why is there sand all over,” scoffed Diamond. “If we don’t do something about shoreline
certifications now, in the next three years there won’t be a beach.”
Stake your case
It’s understandable that creating a boundary on a shifting coast contains room for error. Yet, with the ocean rising annually,
coastal development accelerating and the shorelines naturally retreating, this room for error has become a threat to
Hawai‘i’s beaches and testimony of officials’ neglect.
“It’s very, very difficult to accurately determine a shoreline position,” said Zoe Norcross, Sea Grant Coastal Processes
Extension Agent for Maui County. “There’s not exactly a clear line that is formed by the highest reach of the wave, after a
few days or weeks it can be obscured.”
According to Hawaii Revised Statute 205-A (HRS 205-A), relating to Coastal Zone Management, the state’s definition for a
shoreline is “the upper reaches of the wash of the waves, other than storm and seismic waves, at high tide during the
season of the year in which the highest wash of the waves occurs, usually evidenced by the edge of vegetation growth, or
the upper limit of debris left by the wash of the waves.” Although the definition implies a season in which certifications should
be completed, shorelines are certified throughout the year.
To build along the coast, a property owner must obtain a shoreline certification. The first person along the totem pole of
procedure is a registered surveyor. Hired by the landowner, the surveyor visits the property, photographs the area, stakes
the suggested shoreline and prepares a map representing the lot and its seaward boundary.