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Environmental Assessment Underway for Puna Roads Impacted by 2018 Eruption

March 21, 2022, 7:58 AM HST
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On Friday, March 18, 2022, the county’s Department of Public Works, Department of Water Supply, Planning Department’s Disaster Recovery Division and Council Member Ashley Kierkiewicz convened a virtual meeting with 50 community members to report on the status of restoring road and water infrastructure impacted by the 2018 Kīlauea volcanic eruption.

The latest report included the start of FEMA’s Environmental Assessment for road and waterline restoration along Pohoiki Road and Highway 137, which was initiated in January. In addition, meeting participants received information on project milestones achieved to date and anticipated timeframes for construction to occur.

Pohoiki Road covered in hardened lava flows on Aug. 1, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard.

“As we look ahead to four years since the 2018 Kīlauea eruption, we recognize how important this information is to communities still feeling the effects of this event,” said the Disaster Recovery Officer Douglas Nam Le with the County’s Planning Department. “We are acting with urgency and diligence to move these investments in road and water infrastructure forward. The County appreciates the close coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) since the end of the eruption, which has been critical to this progress.”

The Environmental Assessment is a requirement of utilizing federal funds and must be completed before any construction can begin, the county stated in a press release this morning. In addition, the county continues to secure necessary rights-of-entry agreements for properties adjacent to construction areas and identify property needed for right-of-way acquisitions.

Findings and conditions of the completed Environmental Assessment will assist Public Works and Water Supply in finalizing engineering and design for road and waterline projects, officials stated. FEMA will issue a notice to proceed after engineering and design is approved, allowing the county to complete right-of-way acquisitions and prepare bids for construction. The construction procurement process is expected to take six months before construction contracts are awarded.

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“It seems that the internal blockages have been cleared, County is in direct communication with FEMA, and road restoration is finally on track,” said Council Member Kierkiewicz. “I appreciate Water Supply’s willingness to coordinate its projects with Public Works, so infrastructure work can be done as quickly and efficiently as possible. While all of this is taking much longer than we all hoped, I sincerely wish that should any further issues arise throughout the process, they be quickly shared and resolved because community is desperate to have reasonable access back to their homes, farms, and recreational areas.”

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The county is a partner in the Environmental Assessment process, which includes proper consultation with lineal descendants and assessment and documentation of historical, archaeological, and environmentally sensitive resources, including any impacts and mitigation actions. It is anticipated that the Environmental Assessment will be completed in January 2023.

Construction for these road and water line projects is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2023 and will be delivered through four coordinated projects.

“Following completion of the Environmental Assessment, currently being conducted by FEMA and slated for conclusion by January 2023, DPW and DWS will complete engineering documents, and DPW will solicit bids for the four projects,” said Public Works Director Ikaika Rodenhurst. “Starting dates above are estimates based on current information available. Durations for each of the four projects are based on current known site conditions and the reasonable availability of equipment, labor, and materials necessary to complete the work scopes. In each case, project work will be performed most efficiently so as to provide water service and roadway access to the community as quickly as possible.”

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The Pohoiki Road project will be broken up into three sections:

  • Lava-Inundated Upper Pohoiki Road: Construction is slated to start Quarter 4, 2023, and be completed by Quarter 3, 2024.
  • Lower Pohoiki Road to Highway 137: Construction will start Quarter 3, 2024, and be completed by Quarter 2, 2025.
  • Highway 137 from Pohoiki Road to Kapoho Beach Road: Construction is slated to begin Quarter 2 2025, and be completed by Quarter 4, 2025.

Additional projects include:

  • Highway 137 from Four Corners to Kapoho Beach Road: Construction is set to begin in Quarter 4, 2023, and end in Quarter 2, 2024.
  • Highway 137 from Mackenzie to Pohoiki Road: Construction is scheduled to start in Quarter 4, 2023, and be completed in Quarter 2, 2024.
  • Lighthouse Road: Construction is set to start in Quarter 4, 2023, and be completed in Quarter 2, 2024.

FEMA approved a $61.5 million grant for impacted County roads and a $30 million grant for affected water infrastructure due to the eruption. The grants are provided on a reimbursement basis and cover 75% of the costs that were estimated in a damage assessment. In addition, the county provides a 25% cost match, which will be paid for using the funds awarded by the Hawai‘i State Legislature in 2019.

“The Department of Water Supply appreciates the feedback and input from the community and looks forward to progressing with these projects,” stated Manager-Chief Engineer Keith Okamoto.

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