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Hawaii Scrambles to Save Its Iconic Beach

Recent high tides suggest Waikiki Beach is in trouble
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 21, 2019 12:05 PM CDT
In this June 21, 2017 photo, a puddle of seawater forms behind sandbags at a hotel on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu as record high tides begin to hit the state.   (Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Cindy Ellen Russell via AP)
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(Newser) – Hawaii's iconic Waikiki Beach could soon be underwater as rising sea levels caused by climate change overtake its white sand beaches and bustling city streets, the AP reports. Predicting Honolulu will start experiencing frequent flooding within the next 15 to 20 years, state lawmakers are trying to pass legislation that would spend millions for a coastline protection program aimed at defending the city from regular tidal inundations. The highest tides of recent years have sent seawater flowing across Waikiki Beach and onto roads and sidewalks lining its main thoroughfare, and interactive maps of the Hawaiian Islands show that many parts of the state are expected to be hit by extensive flooding, coastal erosion, and loss of infrastructure in coming decades.

That's an alarming scenario for a state where beach tourism is the primary driver of the economy, leading some lawmakers to insist that planning for rising tides should start now. "The latest data on sea level rise is quite scary and it's accelerating faster than we ever thought possible," says state Rep. Chris Lee, a Democrat and lead author of a bill calling for the creation and implementation of the shoreline protection plan. The project would focus on urban Honolulu but act as a pilot program for other coastal communities around the state. While Hawaii is rarely subjected to direct hurricane hits, Lee's bill says warmer oceans will increase that risk by creating "more hurricanes of increasing intensity"—and estimates the impact of a major hurricane making landfall at $40 billion. Click for the full story.

(Read more climate change stories.)

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