MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
Beaches are a convenient luxury; they serve as natural bridges into an ocean of opportunities, or, simply, a comfortable and scenic place to lie down and relax, read, sleep or socialize. Service members, their families and veterans aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii have access to their own private beaches. However, the dunes which overlap North Beach are a natural resource vital for the survival of the beach itself, and are slowly being destroyed.
According to Todd Russell, the natural resources manager for the Environmental Compliance and Protection Department aboard MCB Hawaii, erosion at the entrance point of the beach is a problem, which could be easily mitigated.
“You’re going to have natural sand migration, but, the problem is when it gets up to its high area, and the sand is all gone, you need something to hold back the ocean,” Russell said. “The dunes are like a sand bank. When they erode down and get pushed down into the beach, it gets pushed out into the ocean and we may lose that.”
Beach patrons may not understand the importance of the dunes and their role as a natural resource that allows for the recycling of sand onto the beach. Over time, the dunes naturally erode and the sand gradually pours onto the beach and is swept away by the ocean’s current. Yet, as beach-goers agitate the dunes, it exacerbates the trickle-down process, which could eventually lead to needless spending on beach maintenance. The dunes become aggravated when patrons run around, camp and sometimes even sled down them with their boogie boards. Russell said that as long as this behavior ceases, the base would not have to preserve the beach unnaturally.
“Here we have this natural sand repository, and we don’t have to spend a bunch of money to firm up our shoreline, Russell said. “As long as we don’t run around all over (the dunes), and as long as we don’t try to camp out.”
Beach nourishment is the process of installing materials that are alien to the shoreline, such as sea walls or revetments, and are sometimes the only options to restore beaches. In some cases, the solutions themselves can lead to further erosion.
The conservation of the dunes is not only an environmental concern, but a historical one as well. The dunes are a part of the Mokapu burial area, which is an archeological site. Nearly 1,600 remains were recovered from the dunes before World War II.
“The ancient native Hawaiians, they lived out here from 1200 to 1400 A.D., and were living here on campsites,” said June Cleghorn, the senior cultural resources manager for the Environmental Compliance and Protection Department. “It’s important we preserve the beach for cultural reasons, and that these dunes be as stable as they can."
Russell said the maintenance of MCB Hawaii and its beaches is concern all residents should stay conscientious of.
“If the Marine Corps still wants to use this base 5,000 years from now, they’re going to have to protect those dunes because (they will) want to have a base here,” Russell said. “The dunes are something that helps protect our installation.”