Managing for diverse coastal uses and values under sea level rise: perspectives from O’ahu, Hawaiʻi

Effective and equitable coastal decision-making under sea level rise requires managing for multiple coastal uses and values. A new publication led by UHERO’s Environmental Policy and Planning Group analyzes how decision-makers in Hawaiʻi perceive diverse uses and values of beaches and coastlines to be important and how they see recognition of these uses and values ideally shaping SLR response. See our blog for a summary of this publication.

Abstract 
Effective and equitable coastal decision-making under sea level rise (SLR) requires managing for multiple coastal uses and values. This study explores how coastal decision-makers in Hawaiʻi perceive diverse uses and values of beaches and coastlines to be important and how they see recognition of these uses and values ideally shaping SLR response. We conducted 42 interviews and 37 surveys with representatives from government, private, and civil society organizations involved with coastal decision-making across the state. To understand how perspectives change based on localized contexts, we grounded our conversations around three socio-ecologically distinct communities on the island of Oʻahu: Kaʻa‘awa, Sunset Beach, and Kāhala. We found broad agreement across decision-maker groups and sites in the perception that current coastal management decisions prioritize private and monetary (particularly real estate) values over diverse social and ecological values, often to the detriment of beaches and coastal communities. Though participants generally agreed on the need for new policy and management approaches that promote protection of relational and other non-monetary values of beaches to diverse communities, interviewees held markedly different perceptions over whether, and the extent to which, sustaining beaches under SLR necessitates tradeoffs in maintaining private property claims. Results highlight the importance of approaching SLR adaptation with an appreciation of multiple and place-based uses and values; and of developing processes to build a shared understanding among distinct actor groups and value systems of the tradeoffs inherent in SLR response.

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