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Hawai‘i County Working on Public Lava Viewing Plans

July 3, 2018, 12:20 PM HST
* Updated July 3, 12:34 PM
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Fissure 8 on June 16, 2018 at the Kapoho-Pohoiki intersection. PC: Crystal Richard

The County of Hawai‘i will soon announce its plans and the location for a lava viewing area, according to Diane Ley, County of Hawai‘i Research and Development director.

Ley addressed the lava viewing area issue during the Future of Puna meeting on June 30.

“The administration is working on the various proposals and we have been for many weeks,” said Ley.

She said it comes down to safety.

The view of Fissure 8 from Pohoiki Road, June 16, 2018. PC: Scott Cate

“We continue to work on it,” said Ley. “We know that is a huge opportunity both for residents who want to see. We also know our visitors will come and see it, so we are working on it, but again, safety comes first. So, please be patient we’ll get to it.”

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Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara said she and Ley spoke about charging visitors and allowing kama‘āina into the viewing area at no charge

One are considered for a public lava viewing area is near the Y-intersection Kapoho-Pohoiki Road where there is a clear view of Fissure 8 and the river of lava at the top of the 30ft wall of lava seen here on June 29, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard.

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Among locations that may be viewing areas are the Y-intersection on Pohoiki Road, Bryson’s Cinder Quarry in Kapoho and in Hilo.

The view of the channelized lava flow seen from Bryon Cinder Quarry in Kapoho on June 17, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

When asked why the area on the side of Pohoiki Road with a view of Fissure 8 was bulldozed, Ley said she did not know but referenced a brush fire in the area.

The side of Pohoiki Road was cleared between June 16 and 20, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

According to Honolulu Star Advertiser, Gov. David Ige said last week, “You can see the lava flow from Hilo. So it’s anything on that side of the island. Obviously, it would not be down in Puna, specifically.”

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However, Ley told the residents at Saturday’s town hall meeting that areas of consideration have been run over by lava.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman said he supports opening a lava viewing area, especially in response to the increased helicopter noise.

This area with a view of Fissure 8 was cleared before June 20, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

“I know you all are putting up with a lot of it,” said Sen. Ruderman.

He explained that the noise is one of the reasons he hopes the area gets a viewing area.

The channelized lava flow seen from Bryson’s Cinder Quarry on June 17, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

The helicopter trips are mostly taken by tourists, he said, but if a “respectful” viewing area were to open for residents only for the first few days or weeks, it would instill a sense of ownership.

“I hope we can get more people on the ground, because those people up in the helicopters aren’t helping us economically at all,” said Sen. Ruderman. “They just fly over and go back. It might help Hilo, but it doesn’t help Pāhoa at all.

These photos show Fissure 8 as seen from the Y-intersection. On the left is June 16 and on the right June 20, 2018, on Pohoiki Road. PC: Crystal Richard

“We have this opportunity; lets use it,” Rep. Joy San Buenaventura stated. “Just like the micro-units occurred without government intervention, this may be one of those opportunities that private business may come in. That’s one of things, we are talking to private landowners about—allowing their places to be used as lava viewing sites—and hopefully we can get some cooperation from the county to allow for passage to those private areas.”

“The whole idea is to use this disaster as an opportunity and not just let it kill business… use it to basically keep jobs and increase business,” she said.

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