Hawai'i Volcano Blog

Draft Environmental Assessment released for roads, waterline recovery projects from 2018 Kīlauea eruption

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This map shows the lava flow from the 2018 Kīlauea eruption, from Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit through the East Rift Zone that inundated Puʻuʻōʻō and Leilani Estates. (FEMA Draft Environmental Assessment)

The Puna Road and Waterline Draft Environmental Assessment — for areas inundated by lava during the 2018 Kīlauea eruption — is complete and now available for public review.

This federal draft environmental assessment is a necessary step to move forward with $88 million in infrastructure restoration projects funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with a 25% match by Hawaiʻi County. Road projects will receive $82 million and the remaining $6 million is for waterline projects.

The public can review and comment on the draft Environmental Assessment at the Department of Public Works by clicking here.

This draft covers the road and waterline construction projects for:

  • Upper and Lower Pohoiki Road
  • Road and waterline construction from Highway 137 to Kapoho Beach Road to Pohoiki Road
  • Road construction for Highway 137 from Pohoiki Road to McKenzie Beach Park
  • Road construction at Lighthouse Road and Four Corners to Kapoho Beach Road.
This maps shows road and waterline project areas and locations that are being funded by FEMA, with a Hawaiʻi County match, due to destruction caused by the 2018 Kīlauea eruption. (FEMA Draft Environmental Assessment)

Once the Environmental Assessment is finalized, the county will receive a Notice to Proceed, allowing formal design plans for the roads and waterlines to be submitted for review. It will lead to construction beginning early next year.

“We’re excited to see that FEMA has completed their portion of the Environmental Assessment for our project,” Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth said. “It’s a significant milestone that brings us closer to breaking ground. We appreciate the community’s patience and support, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact of our hard work in the upcoming construction phase.”

It has been five years since the eruption, and the people and communities that were devastatingly affected have been frustrated with the slow recovery process. For Deb and Stan Smith, both nearing 70 years old, it means having to hike 700 feet over black lava to get to their house. And they are not alone.

There will be a 30-day public comment review period for this environmental assessment from Aug. 3 to Sept 5. The County, in partnership with FEMA, will also hold a public review meeting on Aug. 8 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. Residents can review and discuss the contents of the Environmental Assessment as well as the next steps in the project.


The draft Environmental Assessment started in January 2022 and slated to be completed in January. However, the release of the report was delayed three times. The assessment had to be completed before the county could use the federal funds for road and waterline restoration along Pohoiki Road and Highway 137.

Hardened lava inundated a section of Highway 137, just north of the intersection with Pohoiki Road, facing northeast. (Photo courtesy: FEMA draft Environmental Assessment)

FEMA spokesperson Robert Barker said the the Environmental Assessment was drawn out because of the scale, scope and complexity of the work and potential impacts to natural and cultural resources around Pohoiki Road.

The scope of work changed multiple times, Barker wrote in an email, creating new revisions, altering the project’s footprint and its subsequent effects on natural and cultural resources in the area.

The grants are provided on a reimbursement basis and cover 75% of the costs that were estimated in a damage assessment. The remainder of the funding comes from the county. For more information on the full scope of investments to restore infrastructure following the historic 2018 Kīlauea eruption, visit recovery.hawaiicounty.gov/infrastructure.


All comments must be received in writing and will be accepted through Sept. 5.

Comments should be mailed to: Regional Environmental Officer, FEMA Region 9, 1111 Broadway, Suite 1200, Oakland, CA 94607-4052.

Comments may also be submitted via e-mail (preferred) to [email protected]; include “Puna Road Repair and Water Line Installation” in your subject line.

For more information, including the link for the Zoom meeting, go to recovery.hawaiicounty.gov/infrastructure or follow the county on social media @kilauearecovery.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at [email protected].
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