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Coastal Storms: not if but when! Maui, Hawaii plans to rebuild safer, stronger and smarter using community-based reconstruction guidelines.



Maui County, Hawaii is known for pristine beaches, traditional Hawaiian culture and strong connection to the aina (land). Yet Maui's beaches are experiencing the highest rates of erosion of all the Hawaiian islands. Maui sea level has risen 9+ inches over the past century. The islands are highly susceptible to the damaging impacts of strong Pacific Ocean coastal storms.

After a devastating storm, Maui, Molokai and Lanai will need to reconstruct infrastructure, buildings, resorts, commercial facilities and homes. The disaster recovery process will take years. In a rush to rebuild, we must make sure natural assets and coastal resources are not degraded or lost. To ensure we are prepared, Maui is engaging key stakeholders and communities to develop community-based Post-Disaster Reconstruction Guidelines and Protocols (RGP). Building off lessons from Hurricanes Sandy and Iniki and recent tsunamis, the innovative initiative educates communities, prioritizes rebuilding actions, creates a process sequence and speeds up urgent reconstruction approvals.

The RGP project, the first of it’s kind, aims to conserve unique, fragile ecosystems, streamline repair and reconstruction, and engage diverse communities (resort developers, isolated, high-risk, underserved Native Hawaiian communities, businesses, scientists and government officials) using participatory community planning, culturally-sensitive outreach and a Decision Matrix Gameboard to define localized risk and shape a three-tiered, rebuilding approval process.

The project tackles sensitive subjects (land, property, environment), builds consensus, raises awareness of risk, disaster mitigation and coastal adaptation strategies, and will produce reconstruction guidance. The RGP is envisioned to expedite reconstruction while conserving valued coastal resources and protecting sensitive ecosystems, stimulate a new funding program for Native Hawaiian communities and transition to other Hawaiian counties and the Pacific region.

Category of the action

Communicating Coastal Risk and Resiliency

What actions do you propose?

  1. Development and adoption of streamlined approval guidelines for coastal reconstruction relevant to specific Maui communities, where currently no guidelines or community interaction pathways exist.
  2. Community input to and understanding of the following reconstruction processes: damage assessment, property inspection, approval of demolition, debris management, and Best Management Practices for protection of the coastal zone environment.  These reconstruction processes are currently not well vetted at the government level or community level.
  3. Development and utilization of a unique, custom-designed Decision Matrix Gameboard, played by local community stakeholders in local workshops, to explore and identify relevant local damage scenarios and shorelines types to identify three tracks for repair/reconstruction: Fast Track (green)—using before and after pictures, no county approval needed; Inspection Track (yellow)—county inspector gives approval onsite using a checklist of mitigation required; and Environmental Track (red)—go through present permitting process.
  4. Improved County capacity to respond to a coastal storm and the community’s acceptance of the response. The current situation is that specific communities are not tied into the County response and mitigation mechanisms.
  5. Identification of planning options to preserve shoreline development setbacks and encourage strategic retreat from the coastal hazard zone.  Additionally, there can be documented incentives and adaptive mechanisms to redevelop according to modern standards that minimize future adverse social, environmental, and financial impacts to the community. Currently, these planning options are not articulated within the framework of coastal reconstruction.
  6. Redesigning long-term improved community resiliency through reduced risk and exposure to coastal hazards by actualizing its redevelopment in a community-based manner.  To date, there has been limited community input into the coastal reconstruction process.
  7. Development of a Reconstruction Guidelines and Protocols document specific for Maui coastal communities that is transferrable to other coastal communities on Oahu, Hawaii, and Kauai as well as to other islands, territories and states. Currently, no expedited reconstruction guidelines exist, other than current rules and regulations.
  8. A framework and a prescribed path forward for establishing the Reconstruction Guidelines and Protocols into law, ordinance, or rule. Currently, reconstruction planning has not taken place in Maui County.
  9. Encouragement of a countywide understanding of local, state, and Federal mitigation and planning guidelines related to coastal reconstruction. Currently, there is limited understanding of these available resources by communities and various stakeholders that will be reached by this project.

Who will take these actions?

The County of Maui Planning Department (James Buika, Coastal Resources and Shoreline Planner and Principle Investigator, Tara Owens, Sea Grant Program) is leading a small team of local planners with coastal, planning, disaster, and outreach expertise (Suzanne Frew, The Frew Group; Thorne Abbott, Coastal Planners; Mike Summers, Planning Consultants Hawaii; Faith Caplan, CardnoTEC) to collaborate with:

  • Project Advisory Group (PAG), made up of a wide range of policymakers, local activists, community level NGOs, cultural practitioners, scientists and other key leaders, who: provide guidance and input into the planning process based on expertise and knowledge; share experiences; identify reconstruction needs and priorities; support outreach opportunities; and provide feedback.
  • Community Coordinators, local community leaders who bring an understanding of vulnerable, underserved and/or at-risk populations to identify local community champions, and coordinate and facilitate workshops in the remote locations of Molokai’I island and east Maui communities of Hana and Kaupo.
  • Key community stakeholders from each island high-risk area that participate in a local Post Coastal Storm Workshop as part of the participatory planning process and extended community outreach/engagement strategy. Included are local high school students to encourage multi-generational perspectives, partnerships and further “next generation” implementation.
  • Traditional and social media leaders to promote project efforts, serve as a force multiplier for the message, and further community engagement.

What are other key benefits?

The project will create greater community resilience, reduce risk of long-term damage to sensitive coastal ecosystems and resources, mitigate against uncoordinated redevelopment
and improve post storm repair and reconstruction.  

The educational process introduces mitigation techniques and adaptive mechanisms to improve resiliency from coastal storm. Having streamlined protocols and process in place will reduce the opportunities for compromised environmental considerations and non-compliant structures in the haste to rebuild.

Improvement of government response processes that doesn’t compromise natural storm and flood buffering systems and empowers citizen decision-making will reduce future costs of repetitive losses. The project is designed to stimulate additional resilience grant funding for properties of underserved, Native Hawaiian populations as well as transition to other islands in Hawaii and around the Pacific region.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The current funding from NOAA Coastal Storms Center/University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program is designated to conduct the disaster recovery process research, identify damage scenarios in relation to different types of Hawaiian shorelines and environments, develop the Decision Matrix, conduct participatory planning and create the RGP document. The grant funding is limited and restricted to one year. No negative effects have been identified or are associated with the development and implementation of the project, the Decision Matrix Gameboard, or any other outreach or partnership development aspect of the project.

There are costs associated with the development of the planning effort and the localized community outreach and engagement that extend far beyond the grant funding currently available. Additionally, there will be future costs associated with:

  • Continuing/expanding outreach and public-private partnership development efforts, especially in the remote, rural areas, for the rollout/implementation of the RGP.
  • Furthering the proposed mitigation grant program with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for the native Hawaiian property lessees.
  • Pre-disaster costs associated with implementing the action plan to establish a stable of pre-approved professionals that are educated in the post-disaster guidelines and protocols.
  • Development and public education on a County ordinance, master plans and permit policy changes that are proposed.
  • After a storm event, creating professionally staffed, one-stop shops in each affected community, supported by mobile technology to facilitate remote plan review.
  • Mentoring of other coastal communities.
  • Application development of the Decision Matrix Gameboard for mobile platforms.
  • Ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

Time line

The RGP is anticipated to finalize development in first quarter 2015. Once published, the communities throughout Hawaii will be engaged in the rollout over a short term planning period to be defined. Once feedback is gained from the initial rollout, the outcome will be re-examined for efficiency and target reach prior to initiating moving the effort into the Pacific region for regional mentoring.

  1. Stakeholder Training Workshop or Planning Commission Meeting 1, Oahu Island
  2. Stakeholder Training Workshop or Planning Commission Meeting 2, Kauai Island
  3. Stakeholder Training Workshop or Planning Commission Meeting 3, Hawaii Island
  4. Stakeholder Training Workshop or Planning Commission Meeting 4, Maui Island
  5. Stakeholder Training Workshop or Planning Commission Meeting 5, Molokai Island
  6. Stakeholder Training Workshop or Planning Commission Meeting 6, Lanai Island

Related proposals



Codiga, Douglas; Hwang, Dennis; and Delaunay, Chris, 2011. Climate Change and Regulatory Takings in Coastal Hawai‘i.  Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy. Honolulu, HI.

Codiga, Douglas; Wager, Kylie, 2011. Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Land Use in Hawai‘i: A Policy Tool Kit for State and Local Governments.  Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy. Honolulu, HI.

County of Maui, 2005.  Shoreline Access Inventory Update – Final Report, prepared for Maui County Planning Department by Oceanit.

County of Maui, 2010.  County of Maui Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan 2010 Volume I, County of Maui Civil Defense Agency, prepared for Maui County by Martin & Chock.

Eversole, Dolan and Norcross-Nu’u, Zoe, 2006.  Natural Hazard Considerations for Purchasing Coastal Real Estate in Hawaii:  A Practical Guide of Common Questions and Answers. University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 2011.  The National Disaster Recovery Framework – Strengthening Disaster Recovery for the Nation.  Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 2000.  Coastal Construction Manual:  Principles and practices of Planning, Siting, Designing, Constructing, and Maintaining Residential Buildings in Coastal Areas. Volume I, P. 7-53.

Fisher, Scott; DeNaie, Lucienne, 2009. Malama Mau Na Kahakai o Maui: Perpetuating the Care of Maui’s Coastal Resources: A Qualitative Study of Natural Resource Components of Maui’s West and South Shores.

Hwang, Dennis, 2005.  Hawaii Coastal Mitigation Guidebook.  A publication of the Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Program, Office of Planning, Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, State of Hawaii.  Honolulu, HI.

Norcross-Nu’u, Zoe and Abbott, Thorne, 2005. Adoption of Erosion Rate-Based Setbacks in Maui, Hawaii:  Observations and Lessons Learned.  American Society of Civil Engineers, Annual Conference Proceedings, July 2005.

State of Hawaii Office of Planning, 2009.  A Framework for Climate Change Adaptation in Hawaii prepared by the State of Hawaii’s Ocean Resources Management Plan (ORMP) Working Group, an interdisciplinary group established by the Office of Planning, Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program, with assistance from the University of Hawaii’s Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy (ICAP), University of Hawai'i Sea Grant College Program.

State of Hawaii Office of Planning, 2006.  Hawaii Ocean Resources Management Plan.  Office of Planning, State of Hawaii, Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism, Honolulu, Hawaii.

University of Hawaii Sea Grant, 2012.  Facing our Future: Adaptive Planning For Sea Level Rise in Maui and Hawaii Counties.