Parts of Pohoiki Road which have been buried in lava for nearly three years finally might be excavated later this year, county officials estimate.
At a meeting Tuesday of the Hawaii County Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, Relations and Economic Development, Public Works Director Ikaika Rodenhurst said he has an estimated timeline for the reopening of two major roads in Puna that were severed by the 2018 Kilauea eruption.
Reopening the upper portion of Pohoiki Road — the part buried in lava — and the stretch of Highway 137 from the “Four Corners” intersection to Kapoho Kai Drive are the recovery effort’s highest-priority projects. Rodenhurst described them during the meeting as “Tier 1” projects.
The Pohoiki Road restoration is closer to beginning, because the county expects a response by the Federal Emergency Management Association by the end of the month, Rodenhurst said.
The county has been awaiting FEMA’s approval to begin work on Pohoiki Road for the better part of a year. Rodenhurst said the project cannot move forward without FEMA’s say-so, because FEMA is supplying $61 million in funds to repair lava-impacted roads.
Rodenhurst said he expects FEMA to comment on the Pohoiki restoration plans by the end of February. Assuming they require no alterations, official approval from FEMA could come in June, which he said means construction could begin by September.
As for the lower section of Pohoiki, Rodenhurst said the county is looking into a possible realignment project for the road, although the scope of such a project has not yet been determined. A final design for that project should be complete by November, Rodenhurst said. It also would require FEMA’s approval.
Rodenhurst said the county also is working on a design for the restoration of Highway 137, along with an additional 700 feet of Lighthouse Road. That design, he said, should be finalized by the end of April, which would ideally lead to FEMA approval in December, with construction to begin in March 2022.
However, Rodenhurst emphasized that this timeframe is entirely based on FEMA’s previous response times, and assumes that FEMA will approve plans promptly without requiring changes. Rodenhurst said the recovery team is “going to do all we can” to make sure the plans are as thorough as possible before sending them to FEMA.
After the Tier 1 roads are repaired, Rodenhurst said the county will explore restoring other roads, including Hinalo Street, Honualula Street and Leilani Avenue.
The scope of those projects, he said, will be determined based on how much funding is left after the Tier 1 projects.
Meanwhile, county recovery officer Douglas Le said the recovery team within the next few months will distribute a survey to property owners affected by the eruption in order to determine the shape of upcoming amendments to the recovery action plan.
The action plan governs the use of $83.84 million in funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Fund.
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