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U.S. House Approves Case Measure To Pursue Federal Project To Assist In Preserving Waikiki Beach

The U.S. House agreed with Case that federal water resource studies and projects should include vulnerable shorelines and nearby buildings

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Congressman Ed Case (Hawai‘i – District 1) today announced that the U.S. House has passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022, which includes his requests to pursue potential federal projects to address the impacts of climate change and sea level rise on Waikīkī Beach, provide $20 million to fund water and wastewater infrastructure projects for the City and County of Honolulu, and streamline the process for Native Hawaiian Organizations to receive federal assistance for water resources projects.

The WRDA, which Congress passes every few years, is the measure authorizing the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to conduct water resources development projects and studies throughout the nation. It also establishes federal policies to address inland and coastal flooding, improve our ports and inland waterways, address the unique needs of communities across the country and ultimately strengthen the U.S. economy.

“Preserving Waikīkī Beach is critical for our state, for not only our tourism industry but our own recreation,” said Case. “We all are faced with the real-life evidence every day of the effects of climate change, high tides and coastal erosion on Waikiki Beach, and must increase our efforts now to assure it survives.

The majority of tourists who visit Hawai‘i stay at some point in Waikīkī hotels and resorts, right on Waikīkī Beach or right next to it so they can visit the beach. A 2016 report by the University of Hawai‘i concluded that some 58% of tourists to Waikīkī would not have visited if there was no beach and easy ocean access at Waikīkī.

 “Only the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can conduct a project of this magnitude. It is a unique federal entity with capacity to address specific locations suffering from environmental challenges across the country. Very few new studies and projects, deemed ‘new starts’ are authorized in each WRDA; in our last WRDA, just 27 new feasibility studies were approved nationally. A new study of potential projects to preserve our Waikīkī shorelines is a critical opportunity to pursue a project that is more than just patchwork.”

The House approval of the Waikīkī study under conditions requested by Case is significant since current law restricts studies to only rivers and harbors. The current law does not include surveys of related shorelines or nearby buildings and infrastructure.

“There is no justification for this distinction, especially in the specific case of Waikīkī Beach where the basic challenge extends from the land through the beach to the marine environment,” said Case. 

“This study is needed to make sure we take into consideration the outsized issues like this that remote and coastal locations like Hawai‘i face as our country debates how to approach impacts to infrastructure due to climate change.”

Case also won House approval of his WRDA provisions authorizing $20 million to fund water and wastewater infrastructure projects for the City and County of Honolulu. This authorization will enable necessary investments in wastewater treatment and related facilities, stormwater management, sewer overflow, water supply storage facilities and other projects as needed.

Additionally, the House approved Case’s and Congressman Kaialiʻi Kahele’s (Hawai‘i – District 2) call to exempt indigenous peoples’ organizations, to include Native Hawaiian Organizations, from being required to advance money to match the amount the federal government would fund towards the cost of a water resources project. This will allow for a direct relationship between Native Hawaiians and the federal government to collaborate on critical land and water projects dealing with flood damage, environmental restoration, and ultimately, preservation of cultural and natural resources.

“For Native Hawaiian Organizations and other indigenous peoples’ groups that do not have the same access to funds as their State government agency counterparts, this cost-share waiver removes the barrier for these groups to have a place at the table in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project process. Native Hawaiians have a unique relationship with the environment, and under our amendment they will be able to fully address the issues they see arise that are often overlooked from an outside perspective.” said Case. 

The bill passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 384 to 37. The legislation now moves to the Senate for its consideration.

·        Link to the bill text and additional information is available here.