Residents of a lava-locked kipuka off Highway 132 will soon have a road home.
During a meeting Friday evening in Pahoa, Puna Geothermal Venture officials provided residents and farmers with waivers to sign so they can use a “pioneer road” the power plant built over the lava channel from last year’s Kilauea eruption.
The road connects to a nearby rural subdivision, through which residents can access the rest of the highway. Hawaii County officials say there are 56 properties with structures that remain in the kipuka.
“I’m very glad PGV is working with the community and helping get on with their lives and provide access,” said Sam Bradley, whose mother owns 7.5 acres in the kipuka. “It’s all we can ask for.”
Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for PGV, said it could be open to residents and immediate family members as soon as April 1. PGV will provide security, and days and hours the road will be accessible will be set.
Jordan Hara, PGV plant manager, said restrictions will be relaxed to allow in more people, such as contractors, over time.
“We feel for you and we want to help you as much as possible,” he told residents as he distributed waiver forms.
Mike Gornik, one of the kipuka residents assisting PGV with coordinating access, said completed waivers can be dropped off at Savio Realty in Pahoa. He said a stack of blank forms also will be provided there.
PGV leases the land owned by Kapoho Land and Development Co.
Lono Lyman, company manager, said the kipuka is valuable land for farmers. He called it a “little bread basket.”
“We want to get our neighbors back,” Lyman said.
“It’s time to move forward, it’s time to work together, it’s time to set aside differences.”
The county is seeking to build a temporary road over lava-covered portions of the highway, which totals 3 miles, by Oct. 5. That’s the deadline set by Federal Highway Administration for it to provide full funding, estimated at $1.2 million to $1.4 million.
FHA also will pay 80 percent of full restoration of the highway, estimated to cost $50 million.
The County Council will consider a bill next week to add the project to the budget.
However, whether the highway is fully restored depends on an “alternative study” that should be done in the summer.
David Yamamoto, county Public Works director, said that’s a requirement set by the federal agency.
There also remains isolated homes off of Pohoiki Road and other locations.
Diane Ley, county Research and Development director, said restoring Pohoiki Road would be the next priority after Highway 132.
The county built a temporary road over some lava-covered portions of Highway 137 between Opihikao and Pohoiki last December.
As the county shifts to long-term recovery, she said questions the community will be asked include whether certain areas should be restored and whether property owners in some areas should be bought out.
The months-long eruption destroyed more than 700 homes and covered nearly 14 square miles.
“There are big decisions we as a community, we as a government got to work toward,” Ley said.
She added recovery will be a five- to 10-year process.
“We want to dream the dreams and then fulfill the dreams,” Ley said.
Kaleikini said a website will be launched soon to address road access.
He said people can contact him for access forms and waivers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald