Schatz Urges Marine Corps To Listen To Community Concerns, Review Impacts, Consider Options For Proposed Sea Wall That Threatens Ewa Beach

Marine Corps Proposes Building 1,500-Foot Sea Wall, Threatening Public Beach

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) called on the U.S. Marine Corps to listen to community concerns and further review the environmental impact of its plan to build a retaining wall on Ewa Beach.

“It is incumbent that the Marine Corps explore long-term resilience benefits for the Pu‘uloa Range Training Facility that avoid unnecessary environmental impacts on Hawai‘i’s beaches and the residents of Ewa Beach on the island of Oahu,” wrote Senator Schatz, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. “I ask that the Marine Corps revisit the alternatives for the planned Pu‘uloa Range Training Facility coastal erosion project to ensure that it has assessed the feasibility of designing a project that draws on natural and nature-based features, consistent with existing engineering best practices for coastal zone management and beach erosion.”

The Marine Corps plans to build a 1,500-foot metal retaining wall on Ewa Beach to protect its shooting range against erosion. While the Marine Corps conducted an initial environmental review of the project, it has concluded an Environmental Impact Statement is unnecessary, ignoring deep concerns about the impact to the beach ecosystem raised by state regulators and residents.

The full text of the letter can be found below. A copy of the letter is also available here.

Dear General Berger,

I write with concerns about the Marine Corps’ planned Pu‘uloa Range Training Facility coastal erosion project.

As the former Marine Corps Forces, Pacific commander, you understand that the Department of Defense (DoD) takes seriously its need to ensure the viability of its training ranges while remaining a good steward of the cultural, historical, and environmental needs of the people of Hawai‘i. To that end, I am concerned that the Marine Corps’ planned 1,500 foot steel wall project may not be representative of the best design practices for mitigating coastal erosion risk and that it could impose unnecessary environmental impacts on Hawai‘i’s beaches and the residents of Ewa Beach on the island of Oahu.

Climate change threatens communities across Hawai‘i and these anticipated effects on our military installations impose risks on the training ranges that are necessary to maintain readiness. I recognize the Marine Corps’ need to protect the small arms training range from the threat of coastal erosion which could be exacerbated by the effects of climate change. However, shoreline hardening projects such as the planned Pu‘uloa Range Training Facility coastal erosion project can have unintended consequences on the marine ecosystem and erosion on downstream beaches, and there may be better ways to promote long-term resiliency by integrating natural principles into the design and siting of climate mitigation and adaptation projects.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ “Engineering with Nature” Initiative, for example, offers instructive lessons for drawing on natural and nature-based features to mitigate coastal erosion and flooding while protecting ecosystem services. These features, for example, may include developing artificial reefs to reduce the effect that waves have on beach erosion and flood damage or engineering coastal landscapes with wetlands, maritime forests, and levees to reduce long-term erosion and flood risks while protecting wildlife habitats for the benefits of the local community. These types of engineering best practices are exemplary of the approach DoD should take to resiliency whenever feasible, as they promote the resilience and environmental goals that it shares with the people of Hawai‘i.

It is incumbent that the Marine Corps explore long-term resilience benefits for the Pu‘uloa Range Training Facility that avoid unnecessary environmental impacts on Hawai‘i’s beaches and the residents of Ewa Beach on the island of Oahu. To that end, I ask for responses to the following questions:

  1. Why did the Marine Corps choose not to consider a natural or nature-based project as part of an analysis of alternatives?
  2. What engineering best practices did that the Marine Corps rely on to inform its development of the Pu‘uloa Range Training Facility coastal erosion project?

Finally, I ask that the Marine Corps revisit the alternatives for the planned Pu‘uloa Range Training Facility coastal erosion project to ensure that it has assessed the feasibility of designing a project that draws on natural and nature-based features, consistent with existing engineering best practices for coastal zone management and beach erosion.

I would appreciate a response to this letter with an explanation of the way forward on this project no later than December 6, 2019. Thank you for your continued leadership of our Marines and stewardship of the cultural, historical, and environmental needs of the people of Hawai‘i.

Sincerely,

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