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County of Hawaiʻi News

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Kipuka Connections

Post Date:08/19/2019 9:00 AM

KAPOHO – Members of Hawai‘i County’s Kīlauea disaster recovery team discussed economic recovery and challenges facing kipuka residents with some community stakeholders Aug. 12 while visiting properties affected by the 2018 eruption.

The site visit to the Highway 132 area allowed those in attendance to share perspectives about the disaster recovery process outside of formal meetings.

“The goal of the recovery planning process is to make a more resilient Puna,” said Diane Ley, county Research and Development Director, who is the county’s recovery lead. “That includes lifting up the local economy and mitigating volcanic hazards. Success of the effort will require the county and community working together in constructive ways. We appreciate the opportunity to visit affected areas with these community members.” 

Ley was joined by Heather Long, Hawai‘i Field Director for the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD). Also in attendance were Lono Lyman, manager of Kapoho Land and Development Company (KLDC), and Susan Kim, a displaced Kapoho resident and Vacationland Hawaii Community Association board member.


Property owner Lono Lyman shows visitors his lava-impacted lands.

ISD is developing an economic recovery report for Hawai‘i Island that will be a component of the Recovery Strategic Plan. ISD’s work is funded with a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and a county match. 

The Recovery Strategic Plan is expected to be complete by the end of 2019.

The team visited Puna Geothermal Venture, a resident who owns a home in the Highway 132 kipuka, and agriculture properties owned by KLDC, which saw 1,265 acres of its land overrun by lava flows.

In addition, the team observed work to restore Highway 132 and offered ho‘okupu at the lava flow. 

Road status

About 3 miles of the highway was covered by lava from the 2018 Kilauea eruption. A section of the roadway was isolated as a result, creating a kipuka accessible to residents through PGV’s pioneer road that crosses the hardened lava channel.

Some kipuka residents still have access issues on their private roads due to the lava rock, which the county is addressing by dispersing grants from funds provided by PGV and other donors. Kipuka resident Nancy Seifers highlighted the need for homes to be reconnected to the electrical grid. Power lines were severed by the lava flows.

Bulldozers are working on both ends of the inundated highway to build a temporary road by Oct. 5 to qualify for cost reimbursement from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The Department of Public Works (DPW) is seeking a deadline extension as rock temperatures reach 800 degrees in some places, prohibiting the application of asphalt.

Work crews reached a milestone recently when they punched through to Government Beach Road in lower Kapoho. Once completed, the road would open following inspection by FHWA staff. DPW is asking if the road can be opened in phases due to the heat issues. 

The county is seeking Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to restore or replace other public roads covered by lava.

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