Hawaii budget includes $13M for Waikiki Beach restoration

HONOLULU — The state budget passed by the Hawaii Legislature includes funding for repairs at Waikiki Beach, officials said.

The legislature approved about $13 million for improvements to the crumbling Royal Hawaiian seawall and other man-made structures at the state's most visited beach, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

"This is the largest appropriation for beach improvements on Oahu in recent memory. It allows us to move forward on several projects that have been discussed on and off for decades," said Dolan Eversole of the University of Hawaii.

The $13 million is sufficient to shore up the Royal Hawaiian seawall between the Waikiki Sheraton and Royal Hawaiian hotels and return a seawall to Kuhio Beach, which officials said have been failing for years.

Waikiki's overhaul is scheduled to start in late summer or early fall. Previously there was no timeline for replacing the structures protecting the beach from erosion.

"There used to be a wait-and-see sentiment among some," Eversole said. "But there has been a shift in overall perception, and people seem to feel that we can't wait any longer to address these challenges."

Waikiki Beach is considered the epicenter of tourism on Oahu, which last year had more than 5.9 million visitors, or about 60% of the state's 10 million visitors. The visits generated more than $8 billion in spending, or about 46% of $17.8 billion in statewide spending, officials said.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority supports state efforts to protect Waikiki Beach.

"Today, it is one of the most renowned beaches in the world and is also tremendously important to the Hawaii brand image," authority President Chris Tatum said.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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