Storms Manhandle Makaha Beach

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - December 24, 2008
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Makaha Beach is scarred from recent heavy rains, and it may take months before the world-famous shoreline makes a full recovery. Veterans of the once-pristine white, sandy beach believe that won’t happen without many helping hands.

“The community can only do so much, so either the state or the city has got to accept some kind of responsibility or co-op and just come out and help clean this place up,” says longtime waterman and community leader Brian Keaulana. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Keaulana is referring to trash and debris that washed down the slopes of Makaha Valley during the recent storm, turning the jewel of the leeward coastline into a war zone.

“This is a major crisis,” says Keaulana. “I’ve lived here all my life and I probably saw this when I was one little kid when my dad was a park keeper here, but never like this and never this kind of damage and destruction.”

Keaulana should know. He and his brothers literally grew up at Makaha, where his father Richard “Buffalo” Keaulana was appointed the first head lifeguard of the beach in 1969. The younger Keaulana says some of this could have been avoided if city and state agencies were proactive and not reactive.

“We used to manage this beach before with bulldozers and getting the sand pushed, but the city hasn’t come and managed the sand for quite a long time,” says Keaulana. “It not only helps with erosion, but keeping drainages clear and managing the streams. Just because we’re in Waianae on the dry side doesn’t mean we don’t have rain. When we have rain like this, this is what happens.”

Keaulana fears this will develop into a public safety and health issue. In the midst of splintered tree branches, gas cans, construction wood and thousands of golf balls, sit other items that trigger his concerns.

“There’s a big reason why Makaha is empty,” he says. “The local kids are not surfing because of the carcasses, dead birds, pigs, dogs, rats and fish out in the rubbish line. There are predators out there, big sharks at the rubbish line feeding. You can’t see them but they’re there - I guarantee you they there!”

He’s right. An eight-to-10 foot shark was spotted just two yards offshore last Tuesday, prompting lifeguards to post shark-sighting warning signs along the beach.

“We don’t normally see sharks this close in at this beach that often,” says lifeguard Mac Hall. “It’s rare to see a shark that big or one that shows itself that’s only six feet off the shore.”

Adds Keaulana, “Everywhere around the state, whenever you see some stream or river mouth (after a big rain), that is a feeding line to predators that feed off carcasses. It’s really important not to go out in the water.”

But Keaulana emphasizes this is not just about predators. Beachgoers risk being exposed to leptospirosis and other diseases besides being injured in the water.

“As soon as the next swell comes it’s going to clean this whole place out in a bad way,” says a concerned Keaulana. “It’s going to push all this debris down, it’s going to bury some of it, it’s going to float some of it out into the rip and it’s going to cause a lot of injuries with swimmers and surfers,” he says.

The respected community leader hopes action is taken before someone is hurt.

“It’s such one political game, it’s like finding Waldo - is it the city is it the state?” he says. “The bottom line is the weather conditions and the ocean won’t wait. It’s not if but when it happens again, we need to be prepared. It’s a natural hazard just waiting to happen.”

This is one scar that can heal properly if given the right care.

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