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New multi-hazard mitigation plan to help lower risks on Big Island

Multiple public meetings planned around the Big Island this month will introduce the results of a risk assessment conducted for a required update of the county’s multi-hazard mitigation plan.

The plan, which must be updated every five years, is the county’s hazard and risk assessment for natural disasters and will include proposed projects to reduce the potential loss of life and property.

“If we see a hazard, a vulnerable location on the island, and we see a project that would benefit (from) some mitigation, we’ll mention it in this plan and that will allow us to possibly get some federal money to do some mitigation,” Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said.

According to the county, the multi-hazard mitigation plan is required to be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency funds. It is related to and should influence the county’s general plan and emergency operations plan.

This update, however, comes after the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano, from which the county continues to recover.

Nearly 14 square miles of land was inundated with lava during the months-long eruption, which began in May 2018. The eruption destroyed more than 700 structures and homes in lower Puna and displaced 3,000 residents.

Part of the updated plan includes “more robust analysis of the volcanic risk on the island,” Magno said, which includes looking at different lava zones — particularly more vulnerable areas where fissures could open up and eruptions might start.

For example, that might mean when considering codes and permitting, “do we allow dense populations to grow in these vulnerable areas — that kind of critical look at exposing populations (to potential hazards).”

The previous plan only addressed volcanic gases, he said.

Disaster Recovery Officer Douglas Le said the county is going through lava recovery efforts as well as updating the multi-hazard mitigation plan.

“Both plans are conducting risk assessments,” he said, adding that the lava recovery team is putting forth an islandwide volcanic risk assessment, the findings from which will be applied to recovery work in Puna.

While the scopes are different, Le said both efforts also are identifying projects that aid in recovery from the 2018 eruption, but also mitigation steps the county can take to reduce risks from volcanic and other hazards.

Public meetings will be held from 6-8 p.m. on the following dates:

• Jan. 22 at Aupuni Center conference room, 101 Pauahi St. in Hilo.

• Jan. 23 at the West Hawaii Civic Center, building G, 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway in Kailua-Kona.

• Jan. 29 at Waimea Community Center, 65-1260 Kawaihae Road in Waimea.

• Jan. 30 at Ocean View Community Center, 92-8924 Leilani Circle in Ocean View.

Residents can also complete a hazard mitigation plan survey to contribute to the update.

The anonymous survey will be used to develop portions of the plan and can be found online at

Email Stephanie Salmons at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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