HAWAI‘I COUNTY: How Residents Can Modify Lava Fields to Access Homes

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The County of Hawai‘i has received many requests from residents affected by the recent Lower East Rift Zone eruption to allow them to create access to their property across the lava fields.

Photos and videos taken on July 12, 2018. PC: Hawai‘i Fire Department.

Under Mayor Harry Kim’s Sixth Supplementary Emergency Proclamation dated Dec. 6, 2018, individuals who wish to modify the lava fields to create temporary emergency access must first seek authorization from the Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency.

To make a request to modify the lava field, submit a request to the Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency:

  • Identifying the location of the property, including all Tax Map Key (TMK) numbers;
  • Describing the nature of the access proposed, which should include a site plan showing the location and extent of the temporary emergency access; and
  • Including written consent from all individuals whose properties will be traversed and who will have renewed access.
  • Individuals requesting authorization to modify the lava fields to create temporary emergency access to isolated properties will assume any and all risks, and may be charged for any rescue costs, pursuant to HRS Chapter 137 and/or HCC 2-169.

County agencies, including the Planning Department and the Department of Public Works, will review each request with an eye to compliance with regulations and private property rights, including the following:

  • Will the proposed access route serve multiple properties? If so, to ensure public welfare and safety, additional road standards or other conditions may be required.
  • Is a grading permit required? Modifications may or may not trigger a grading permit per Hawaiʻi County Code section 10-3.  This will be determined during the review process.
  • Will the grading risk breaching lava channel walls, creating a dam, or otherwise significantly altering the flow patterns in the event that lava activity resumes? A geotechnical assessment may be required to determine subsurface conditions depending on the depth of the proposed excavation and other factors related to terrain stability and safety.

After review and the approval of any required permits, Civil Defense will issue an authorization letter. For further information, contact Department of Public Works at (808) 961-8321.


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