Hawaii & Alaska
Waves have been rising on Oahu’s North Shore, with one of the largest early-season swells possible next week. (Screen shot Hawaii News Now)

HI - On Oahu’s North Shore, big fines are proposed for illegal erosion control measures

SUNSET BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) - Waves have been rising on Oahu’s North Shore, with one of the largest early-season swells possible next week.

At a stretch of Sunset Beach along Ke Nui Road, there would normally be at least 50 yards of beach at the end of summer. But several houses are still on the edge as the winter surf season begins.

The sand usually returns in the summer to replenish the shore from Sunset Beach to Rocky Point.

“Usually in the summer we got a hundred yards out here. It’s like a football field. Now in the summer it’s gotten a lot shorter,” said longtime Rocky Point resident Todd Dunphy.

There’s now about 20 yards of shoreline fronting his home. There’s also a steeper incline on the beach, with waves splashing rocks at Rocky Point that are usually surrounded with sand at this time of year.

“It’s gonna be rough, it’s the biggest swell this early in the season, October,” said Dunphy about the expected big surf. “The direction’s bad for this section of the beach.”

Dunphy has been fined by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources several times for his efforts to keep his house from being claimed by the waves. But his next-door neighbor could face a $937,000 fine for several alleged unauthorized erosion control measures, including using a conveyor belt to mine sand from the beach to fill sandbags.

“What we allege are violations of conservation district rules, what we allege are impacts on the natural environment and cultural resources, and for what we allege are unauthorized encroachments and occupancy of state lands,” Michael Cain, administrator of the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands told the Board of Land and Natural Resources at its meeting Friday.

Property owner Eric Freeman bought the home in 2021 and lists it as a beachside vacation rental. The DLNR said there have been previous enforcement actions that were taken before Freeman bought the home.

“They said that we bought the problem,” Dunphy said. “People that have been here on this beach have never seen what was exposed two winters ago. And all of a sudden these things are my problem?”

Freeman testified remotely for the BLNR meeting, asking board members for more time to find an attorney -- and for forgiveness.

“I had no idea of the gravity of any of this, so I come here humbly and apologetic that we are here at all, and certainly nothing new will be done,” he said.

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