Blue Water Task Force, Legal, Water Quality
September 18 2019

Surfrider Foundation Joins Lawsuit to Save Sharks Cove

by Angela Howe

The Surfrider Foundation has joined Save Sharks Cove Alliance, Malama Pupukea-Waimea, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends and three individually named plaintiffs, in filing suit to protect the North Shore of Hawaii from harmful development that could compromise water quality, sensitive habitat and other coastal resources. Sharks Cove is a popular and heavily-visited part of the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, known for its sea turtle viewing and existing traffic issues. Current food truck development on the subject property is causing significant brown water runoff to enter the Marine Life Conservation District located across the Kamehameha Highway at Sharks Cove and the adjacent Pupukea Beach Park. Proposed further development, which would consist of 34,500 square feet of construction on a coastal-adjacent lot with one and two story buildings, would exacerbate water quality impairment and lead to heavy traffic, parking, pedestrian safety, litter and other beach access impacts.

Specifically, this lawsuit is designed to challenge the development that threatens the environmental and public access resources of Sharks Cove and adjacent beach park. In addition to pointing out the failures in the permitting process and violations of the community plan, the complaint also alleges water pollution violations, and state constitutional violations based on the public trust doctrine, right to clean and healthful environment, unlawful fines, lack of due process and public nuisance. The lawsuit challenges the developer, Hanapohaku LLC, and the City and County of Honolulu permitting authorities; it is filed in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii.

The Oahu Chapter’s Blue Water Task Force Program has also helped the plaintiffs by providing water quality testing data, which is cited in the complaint regarding exceedances at Shark Cove. Water quality testing of water in a drainage channel flowing from the property shows “extreme exceedances” of state water quality standards for total nitrogen and phosphorous, and more pollutants.

“Having Surfrider join this lawsuit is a powerful boost to our community efforts to ensure that this development follows the law. We must all be vigilant because degradation from development in sensitive areas can be irreversible," says Denise Antolini, President of co-plaintiff Malama Pupukea-Waimea. "Surfrider also brings welcome expertise in water quality monitoring system to the table - and the court. The Oahu Chapter in particular is a remarkably engaged, smart network of activists to help us tell this important story about the need to protect spectacular coastal resources like Sharks Cove. We are truly grateful to have Surfrider on our team - helping us giving legal voice to our ocean!”

By participating in this lawsuit, the Surfrider Foundation hopes to secure protections for an important ecological resource of Hawaii’s famed North Shore, as well as address this major water quality concern for the North Shore community. If you’d like to support the campaign, click here.