A plea for help
We are now upon the second anniversary of the 2018 Kilauea lower East Rift Zone eruption. As Kapoho property and homeowners, Puna residents and taxpaying citizens, we believe there should be no roadblocks to road recovery now that the county was blessed with more than adequate funding to restore roads and water service. Our message has been clear and consistent: Recovery begins with roads.
The disaster recovery web page states: “Hawaii County could receive up to $300 million in state and federal funding to support the 2018 Kilauea eruption response and recovery.”
Disaster funding is intended for disaster victims, and the county has yet to expend the vast majority of this funding in the community.
Meanwhile, Tetra Tech was awarded a $1.6 million contract, Institute for Sustainable Development got a $500,000 contract, and Neighborhood Place of Puna received a $1.68 million contract. Millions have been expended on consultants who have had little interaction with the directly affected members of the community — apparently an intentional and planned deficiency in this lava response.
To date, the only road recovery is the 3 miles of Highway 132, costing $5.75 million (fully reimbursed by the Federal Highways Administration), along with the temporary road restoration of Highway 137 south of Pohoiki consisting of less than 1 mile funded by the state through the governor’s emergency funds.
At this point, attempting to shift emphasis to property buyout proposals is misguided, premature and not responsive to two years of input from the community.
The county recently decided to permanently recover Pohoiki Road. Concurrent plans should include approximately 1,000 feet of county-owned Leilani Boulevard, as requested by the Leilani Homeowners Association, so a second entry/exit will eventually be created. This is a public safety issue.
Approximately 3.5 miles of Highway 137 from Highway 132 (“Four Corners”) to Pohoiki, and the 700 feet of Lighthouse Road covered by lava, are included in this planning, with stated timelines, yet we cannot effectively begin our recovery and implement our vision for lower Puna.
Why the delay? The money was provided by the Legislature last year for the match needed to the FEMA funds that have now been committed.
Failure to include roads and water, critical infrastructure recovery projects, as part of the long-term plan shows a total lack of commitment and vision by the county.
The money was obtained to do these projects. Our federal and state government committed millions of dollars as a result of our disaster and, as expressed in their press releases, the money is intended to help those DIRECTLY impacted by the disaster.
It’s time for our county to get on board.
Imua lower Puna … no lives, only livelihoods, and decades of hard work were lost from our disaster. We are ready to move forward and continue to ask this administration, the County of Hawaii, the disaster recovery team and task force, to finish the job of restoring our roads.
To all this we say to the county: Recover our roads, so we can activate Puna.
Vacationland Hawaii Community Association Board of Directors