Strategies to address coastal environmental challenges on Oahu’s North Shore

Blog post by Micah Fisher, Learning from Disasters

On Thursday we travelled to Mokuleia and heard presentations about a joint research project on coastal dynamics and potential hazards. We observed the the application of tools by the Coastal Hazard Adaptation Research and Training Program (CHART). The program includes various stakeholders as part of their research effort. Partners include  the National Disaster Training Center (NDPTC), University of Hawaii, Oceanit and the Coastal Hydraulics Resilience Lab (CHER).

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CHART’s vision is to create and utilize a living laboratory at Camp Mokuleia, serving as a test case and hub for research. At the site, they are testing ways to employ new technologies and develop tools for coastal hazard monitoring and planning.

One objective is Hazard Data Collection and Vulnerability/Adaptation Analysis. Aside from the more technical aspects, CHART also aims to engage with the surrounding local community to build capacity to plan for and adapt to future hazards. They will approach this objective through existing educational programs at the camp, as well as development and delivery of new NDPTC courses.

On our visit we were able to observe some of the technologies and tools in action as they were collecting data to monitor coastal hazards.

One of the outcomes of this visit was the discussion of how to duplicate this laboratory in West Papua province. The similarities between the natural hazard threats in Hawaii and West Papua are very evident. We discussed the benefits that could emerge from a similar laboratory in West Papua specific to local conditions. The head of the disaster management organization (BPBD) and the Rector from University of Papua began discussing how they would initiate a similar research laboratory there.

We then traveled to another area to demonstrate the challenges that a different are of the North Shore face. The last few years have seen major damage to a number of houses along the  North Shore. We took the opportunity to visit exposed shoreline areas along part of Sunset Beach. We discussed some of the challenges that local residents and the government face with storms and some of the potential options in a future with the uncertainty of climate change.

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We also took the opportunity to visit the sacred site at Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau, overlooking Waimea Bay. It is the largest heiau (place of worship) on the island, encompassing over two acres. Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau served a critical role in the religious, social, and political system of Waimea Valley, a major cultural center on the north shore of Oahu.

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It was inspiring listening to the animated discussions of our West Papua guests and how excited they were about what they had learned during their visit and the plans they were making. It has been a very successful week and we have made great strides in moving toward the collaboration that was expressed in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Chancellor Lassner, Dean Konan and Rector Manusawai and Professor Hendri on September 12:

“This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) encourages the exchange of faculty, scholars, students, academic information and materials in the belief that the research and educational processes at both universities will be enhanced and that mutual understanding between their respective faculty, scholars and students will be increased by the establishment of such exchanges.”

As we end this trip we all look forward to finding ways to collaborate, discussions which we look forward to reporting on in the future.

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