Where is all the Sand Going?

Where is all the Sand Going?

Sand Dunes and beaches are like sand bank accounts:

There is a finite amount of sand available. Sand on Maui’s beaches is contained within the system of beaches, dunes and near shore sand bars. This littoral system, moves sand around seasonally according to changing waves and ocean currents. If any amount of sand is withdrawn from this account the entire system is diminished. Removing sand from any one beach affects the sum total of sand available. Sand removal from any harbor, dune or beach should be prevented or redeposited in another suitable location. Temporary sand removal from river mouths to allow storm water runoff can be necessary but long term the sand must be returned to the system to prevent long term damage.

Maui’s beaches are losing sand: Maui native sand has taken tens of thousands of years to form, and has been lost through direct human activity at an alarming rate. Sand mining has occurred since before WW2. Sand mining operations at Spreckelsville area saw the digging out of precious coral sands from the local beaches, to feed the HC&S  lime kiln near Paia for about 70 years. A huge amount of Maui sand is mined from inland sand dune stocks too, and the majority is exported to Oahu for cement production. Over 70% of Maui sand mined is sent to Oahu.

Lime Kilns: Sand has been mined on Maui’s north shore (and south shore) for use in Lime Kilns that “burned the sand” to make a cheap source of lime for use in; the Sugar cane fields as a soil conditioner, an additive to clarify cane juice, an additive in pineapple juice, and for the production of cement.

Sand for Construction: sand is also used for aggregate in cement production and general construction as well. Huge amounts of coastal sand as well as inland stocks have been used for these purposes.

Sand Dredging: Sand dredging in Kahului harbor has been done periodically since about the 1910’s. Recently (April 2016) 156,000 tons of sand was dredged from Kahului harbor and dumped out at sea. The sand could have been recovered and reused, but it is cheaper to dump it out at sea. The Kahului harbor was also dredged 15 years previously, and has been similarly dredged at regular intervals since the harbor’s construction.

  • Maui has shipped out 5.5 million cubic yards of sand, over 70% goes to make cement on Oahu.
  • Most of Oahu cement is made from Maui’s sand.
  • We need to keep Maui sand on Maui for local beach nourishment/replenishment.
  • The county has looked into this issue and expressed a desire to slow the loss of sand thru exports, but the exporting of sand continues.

Sand for beach Nourishment: DLNR reports stated that the best sources for sand to be used in beach replenishment is “dredge spoils from harbor maintenance”, and locally sourced sands from inland or offshore stocks..

Kanaha Beach is suffering sand loss: Kanaha Beach is suffering a loss of beach sand too, is it any wonder with a century of harbor dredging at the western end, and at least 70 years of sand mining to the east. At least one small scale beach nourishment projects have been attempted at Sugar Cove to the east of Kanaha, but this one step is not nearly enough to reverse all of the damage caused from the exploitation of beaches, and irresponsible use of beach sand as a cheap “inexhaustible” commodity. Other beaches are suffering even more than Kanaha; Baldwin Beach is losing trees and beachfront at an alarming rate, and houses at Spreks and stable road are losing yards and yards of property and houses and structures are falling into the sea.

Environmental Study 1956: The problem has been known for a long time. A report in a study commissioned by HC&S by Doak Cox, in 1956 declared that “the Sprecklesville Problem” was causing erosion and questioned the sustainability of the sand mining operation. But unfortunately that report was not heeded and sand mining continued there for another 25 years.

Coral Reef Demolition in WW2: In Kihei the army corps of engineers deliberately blew up the coral reef to make an “amphibious landing craft practice area” at Kamaole and Kalama park. The reef and sand in the Kihei area have never been the same.


Link to an article on Maui Beach Sand by Ilima Loomis from in Maui News: “Sand has been mined on Maui since before World War II, and for years it … for Hawaiian Cement sandmining operations on agricultural lands”.