ATTORNEY GENERAL OPINES THE PUBLIC INTEREST REMAINS PROTECTED AS THE SHORELINE RETREATS
News Release from Office of the Attorney General, December 13, 2017
HONOLULU – Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin issued a formal advisory opinion today stating that when the shoreline migrates landward (or mauka) due to erosion or sea level rise, the dividing line between public and private ownership also migrates mauka.
Attorney General Chin said, “Global warming and sea level rise are scientific fact. This opinion emphasizes that Hawaii law plainly states that beaches and shoreline features remain our common heritage as part of the public trust when the shoreline moves.”
The opinion, supported in part by the Hawaii Supreme Court’s recent decision in Gold Coast Neighborhood Association v. State (2017), states that “[t]his migration does not give rise to a constitutional claim by the former owner … this result is not affected by laws relating to the acquisition of real property, [and] the Attorney General does not need to give prior approval in connection with such land.” The opinion further provides that the Board of Land and Natural Resources should charge former owners fair market value in return for an easement interest in the land.
The opinion was issued as a result of a request for advice from Suzanne Case, Chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources about the Land Board’s practice of requiring private owners of coastal properties to obtain easements for structures that were originally constructed on private property but are now located on State-owned land due to the landward migration of the shoreline.
Attorney General Opinion 2017-01 is attached.
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PDF: Attorney General Opinion 2017-01