Restoration of lava-inundated road from Kīlauea gets green light

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Restoration of the lava-inundated Pohoiki Road in Puna is on track to break ground in the first quarter of next year.

On Wednesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency granted Hawai‘i County a Notice to Proceed on repairs for Pohoiki Road, Highway 137 and a water line project. The road work will reopen nine miles of roadway and fix nearly eight miles of waterlines buried under lava during the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea.

Hawai‘i County Council Member Ashley Kierkiewicz, who represents lower Puna and Pāhoa, said the county has been waiting and expecting the “piece of paper” that would give them the go-ahead to move forward on this project.

“This is the federal government passing the baton to the county to run with it,” she said. “It’s definitely a joyous moment. We’ve waited so long.”


Pohoiki Road was among the 32.3 miles of public and private roads that were inundated with lava several feet deep during the three-month-long eruption.

Without that final approval from FEMA, Kierkiewicz said the county hasn’t been able to finalize the design.

County officials say they are actively working on the required documentation necessary for putting this project out to bid and making essential final preparations to ensure a smooth transition to the groundbreaking phase.


Kierkiewicz said the project also will reconfigure Pohoiki Road to provide a more direct path to the shoreline.

Since the eruption, only 3.2 miles of the 13 miles of lost public roads have been restored and reopened: a section on Highway 132 and an 1,100-foot section of Old Government Beach Road from Four Corners. The work was done in November 2019 with funding from the Federal Highways Administration.

Hawaiʻi County was awarded $82 million by FEMA to restore most of the remaining miles of destroyed public roads. Kierkiewicz said these federal funds were issued before the COVID-19 pandemic, and since then, costs to repair Puna’s infrastructure have gone up.


With no more money coming for these projects, Kierkiewicz said she’s working with the county in scaling the project designs within the budget they have.

This “Notice to Proceed” means the county remains on track with the project timeline published with the release of the Final Environmental Assessment last month.

“It’s a ways out but at least now we’re closer to it being a reality,” Kierkiewicz said.

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