Shorline Migration Update

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by RAM on behalf of the Government Affairs Director | Published December 19, 2017


Hawai‘i Attorney General Doug Chin stating“Global warming and sea level rise are scientific fact,” issued a formal advisory opinion late last week, affirming that when the shoreline migrates mauka due to erosion or sea level rise, the dividing line between public and private ownership also migrates mauka.

The opinion was issued as a result of a request for advice from Suzanne Case, chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources and supported in part by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court’s recent decision in Gold Coast Neighborhood Association v. State (2017).


1) The State owns all the lands makai of the "the upper reaches of the wash waves, usually evidenced by the edge of vegetation or by the line of debris left by the wash of waves."

2) The State owns additional public land resulting when the shoreline has migrated mauka due to erosion or sea level rise.

3) This migration does not give constitutional claim to the former owner.

4) This migration does not result in a 'taking" of private property.

5) This result is not affected by laws relating to acquisition of real property and the Attorney General does not need to give prior approval.

6) The DLNR can and should charge former owners fair market value in return for an easement interest in the land.

As always you should consult with your attorney when disseminating this information to your clients, or at the very least give them a copy of the formal advisory opinion which you can find here.

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