Hawai‘i State Representative Cynthia Thielen (R, 50th District: Kailua, Kaneohe Bay), in response to the impending expiration of an important shoreline access law (Act 160), co-introduced House Bill 17 on January 17, 2013. House Bill 17 seeks to make Act 160 permanent.
Act 160 was enacted in response to landowners who purposefully planted, or neglected to trim, vegetation that blocked people from using certain public corridors for lateral beach access. The law requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to maintain beach transit corridors by prohibiting landowners from planting vegetation that interferes with access through them. It also establishes access to the corridors as a policy within the Coastal Zone Management Program.
Representative Thielen said, “Access to our beaches is an essential part of living in Hawaii. We’ve had some property owners who have aggressively cultivated salt-water tolerant vegetation such as hau or naupaka. The overgrowth restricts public access, as the vegetation reduces the width of passable shoreline. In some extreme cases, the vegetation completely blocks passage along the completely. The existence of these “privatized” beaches is hardly consistent with our State Constitution which provides that Hawaii’s shorelines and marine resources belong to the public, with “free and equal” access for all.”
House Bill 17, by making Act 160 permanent, will address this problem by requiring property owners to ensure that beachfront areas abutting their lands “be kept passable and free from the landowner’s human-induced, enhanced, or unmaintained vegetation that interferes or encroaches” upon the public’s ability to transit the shoreline. In other words, beachfront property owners assume the same responsibility as property owners who live adjacent to sidewalks, or other public property.
“It is extremely important that we pass this bill through the Legislature. House Bill 17 doesn’t make new laws, but merely preserves the good ones we have already on the books. If we cannot pass this bill to make Act 160 permanent, we will have lost a very important and valuable law simply through the law’s expiration,” said Representative Thielen.
House Bill 17 is scheduled for its first hearing in the House Committee on Water and Land on Friday, January 25 at 8:30 a.m. in House Conference Room 325.