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County eyes reopening Highway 137 to Pohoiki

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo Fissure 8 is seen from Pohoiki Road near the intersection of Highway 137 on June 21 during a media tour escorted by the Hawaii National Guard.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo Highway 137 was closed May 25 after Kamaili Road because of lava entering the ocean.

The process of reopening Highway 137 to Pohoiki began Monday after county officials and private contractors visited the lava-covered roadway.

County Managing Director Will Okabe said he expects private contractors will submit bids for clearing lava from Highway 137 to Pohoiki by the end of this week.

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The stretch of Highway 137 that would be cleared is between Kamaili Road and Pohoiki Road. That stretch of road is only blocked by three relatively small fingers of lava, which can be cleared far more easily than the massive flow field north of Pohoiki Road that has covered more than 3 miles of the highway.

Okabe said he was unwilling to speculate about how much clearing the road might cost, but guessed the project will proceed “very quickly” once bids are decided upon.

In the meantime, Okabe said several county agencies are working to reopen Isaac Hale Beach Park.

“People are going down there already,” Okabe said.

After the state Department of Land and Natural Resources reopened MacKenzie State Recreation Area earlier this month, many people have hiked to the closed Isaac Hale park to see the new features created by the Kilauea eruption, including a newly formed black sand beach.

However, when the road is reopened, Okabe said he expects hundreds or even thousands of people to jump at the chance to see the park.

Because of the expected high traffic, he said the park’s facilities — particularly restroom facilities — need to be restored to operational standards.

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“I think the people in Puna in particular deserve to see how it’s changed,” Okabe said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.