County exploring routes around lava

County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said Tuesday night officials are “looking at multiple other ways to create connectivity” in the event lava from the June 27 flow crosses Highway 130 and isolates lower Puna.

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County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said Tuesday night officials are “looking at multiple other ways to create connectivity” in the event lava from the June 27 flow crosses Highway 130 and isolates lower Puna.

The comment was part of an informational meeting attended by several hundred at Pahoa High School cafeteria.

“That includes connecting roads between Nanawale (Estates) and the highway, Nanawale and Hawaiian Shores, Leilani (Estates) and Opihikao,” Oliveira said. “We’re trying to identify as many connective access routes as … possible.”

Several members of the public questioned whether enough is being done to solidify alternative routes in case Highway 130 is inundated, something Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists said could happen in a matter of weeks or months.

“It’s not like hundreds of people are gonna be displaced,” one woman said. “It’s gonna be thousands of people.”

Another called the situation “a disaster in slow motion.”

As of Tuesday, the surface flow continued to be about 0.7 miles from Kaohe Homesteads, traveling in a line mostly parallel to the rural neighborhood. The flow has been moving in a mostly northerly direction at about 400 meters (1,300 feet) per day.

“We’re gonna focus on are north-south because Highway 130 is the north-south primary road,” County Public Works Director Warren Lee said. “Other parallel routes are Railroad between HPP (Hawaiian Paradise Park) and Hawaiian Beaches/Hawaiian Shores and the other is the Government Beach Road.”

Both Lee and Oliveira said county officials are working with the state and private landowners to open those corridors if lava crosses Highway 130, making alternative routes in and out of lower Puna necessary.

A woman who said she lives in the northern part of Nanawale said she’s concerned if she is forced to evacuate her home, her insurance will be void. She also wondered why there aren’t bulldozers already trying to cut through the lava covering Chain of Craters Road in lower Puna.

“I see the earth moving equipment in Ahalanui; I see the earth moving equipment in Keaau. … And I want to know why every piece of earth moving equipment on the island is not making a road on Chain of Craters,” she said, receiving loud and prolonged applause.”

Oliveira said Lee and Public Works are “working on various scenarios for Chain of Craters” with the state’s Highways Division.

“All those things are in progress,” Oliveira said. “All of the resources are being focused on the higher, more urban areas first, then looking at other solutions as those scenarios play out. … It will require a partnership, of course, because there is state, private and federal land, and were trying to get support from the (U.S.) Department of the Interior to reestablish the Chain of Craters Road.”

Mayor Billy Kenoi said the emergency declaration by Gov. Neil Abercrombie “opens up a lot of opportunities for us to move really quickly.”

“Instead of a long, involved and drawn permitting process (with) multiple agencies, multiple levels of government, what the emergency declaration does is allows us to just go in and (act).

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“… We not goin’ leave our families strapped, disconnected and cut off,” he said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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