by Ash Ngu, ProPublica, and Sophie Cocke, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii’s beaches are owned by the public, and the government is required to preserve them. So years ago, officials adopted a “no tolerance” policy toward new seawalls, which scientists say are the primary cause of coastal erosion.
But over the past two decades, oceanfront property owners across the state have used an array of loopholes in state and county laws to get around that policy, armoring their own properties at the expense of the environment and public shoreline access.
Government officials have granted more than 230 environmental exemptions to owners of homes, hotels and condos, according to records compiled by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and ProPublica. Those exemptions have allowed property owners to keep old seawalls in place, build new ones and install mounds of emergency sandbags along the beaches.