County reaches agreement with FEMA on lava-covered roads

  • County of Hawaii photo Lava inundated Pohoiki Road in lower Puna in 2018.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Hawaii County have reached agreement on the cost of replacing public roads in Puna inundated by lava during the 2018 Kilauea eruption.

According to a county statement released late Monday afternoon, the agreement under FEMA’s Public Assistance program identifies about $82 million worth of damage to county-owned roads, excluding Highway 132.

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The Federal Highway Administration covered the cost of restoring Highway 132, which was completed last November. In total, the four-month-long eruption buried about 13.4 miles of public roads.

“This grant agreement provides a clearer picture of the resources the county will have when making key decisions about recovery,” Douglas Le, the county’s Kilauea disaster recovery officer, said in the statement. “This will help the recovery team take strategic steps to help Puna bounce forward from this eruption.”

Of the $82 million, the county is responsible for covering 25%, or $20.5 million, and will use no-interest loans approved by the state Legislature for its share of the costs. FEMA will fund 75%, or $61.5 million. Funds can be used to restore infrastructure where it existed and/or be applied to alternative projects.

Pohoiki Road was identified as the next priority for restoration. The eruption covered about 2.4 miles of Pohoiki Road.

Additional steps are required before any work on Pohoiki Road can begin. That includes FEMA obligating the funds, completion of design, and completion of a review by FEMA’s Environmental and Historic Preservation team. That process is expected to take several months, according to the statement.

Mayor Harry Kim expressed gratitude for the funding.

“Pohoiki Road has been a priority from the beginning of this recovery. By working with our community partners, we have an opportunity to make Puna a stronger, more resilient place to live,” he said in the statement.

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Additionally, FEMA and the Department of Water Supply, a semi-autonomous agency, have reached an agreement to repair $40.2 million worth of damage to water infrastructure from the eruption. FEMA will provide $30.15 million, with the county contributing $10.05 million.

An agreement between FEMA and the Department of Parks and Recreation for damage to park facilities remains pending.

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