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County Roads in Kalapana to Be Restored

May 10, 2019, 11:00 AM HST
* Updated May 10, 12:09 PM
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Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim said the county is planning on restoring the county roads lost in lava flows in Kalapana decades ago, now that six-month moratorium has passed.

Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim in his office in Hilo, May 8, 2019. PC: Crystal Richard.

While discussing the recovery process after the 2018 Kīlauea eruption in Lower Puna, Mayor Kim reflected on the eruption in Kalapana in 1990, when Kaimu, Blacksands Beach and Queens Bath were covered in lava flows from Puʻu ʻŌʻō.

“Outside of those things of beauty and of place, what was lost was even more to me,” said Mayor Kim in a May 8, 2019, interview with Big Island Now. “But what was lost was a lifestyle for Hawaiians of decades and generations.”

The emotional human loss was immeasurable, he said.

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Kalapana was the birthplace of many Hawaiians and was one of the last remaining areas of “old Hawai‘i.”

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Mayor Kim said there were many Hawaiian family burials there and a strong connection to the land, down to who planted each tree.

He said it was emotionally difficult telling residents of Kalapana the area was gone.

He said when people lose something like that, it’s a generational loss and a loss of lifestyle for families.

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“For them, normality will never be,” explained Mayor Kim. “For them, their lifestyle will be forever changed.”

Chain of Craters emergency road, June 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

When asked about completing the restoration of roads lost in the summer of 2018 more quickly than currently projected, the mayor said, “The Kalapana people were told the same thing—that you have to wait a period of six months to make sure by Hawaiian Volcano Observatory that this quiet period is not just a few days or weeks or months.”

“We talk about the anniversary of one year, but we need to remember the six-months period of quietness just ended in April,” he said. “The Kalapana people have been waiting since 1983 [for the eruption to end].”

He said the six-month period applies to Kalapana also.

A hot spot on the Chain of Craters emergency road, June 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

“Now they are inquiring, ‘What about our roads,’” stated Mayor Kim. “Now we can because the quiet period is over.”

He said they will need to do the same process as they are doing for Highway 132, Pohoiki Road and Highway 137, including surveys.

Mayor Kim said this is something that the county must do, given the eruption is finally over and enough time has passed to safely consider doing so.

Big Island Now will continue to report as the story develops and specific plans are made and disclosed by Hawai‘i County.

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