Hawaii County increases recovery efforts for lava-hit areas

HILO — Hawaii County has proceeded with efforts to restore access to public roads inundated by lava following the opening of a Big Island highway last month.

About 13 miles (21 kilometers) of public roads were covered by lava from the 2018 Kilauea volcanic eruption affecting portions of Highway 137, Highway 132, Pohoiki Road and others, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Monday.

Temporary access was established to Highway 137 a year ago and Highway 132 was restored last month, officials said. However, multiple other affected roads have remained closed throughout southeast Hawaii Island.

Highway 132 was fully covered by the Federal Highways Administration, but reimbursement for other affected roads would need to come through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, officials said.

Once an agreement is reached between the agency and county, work is expected to continue by priorities, Mayor Harry Kim said. An agreement has not yet been reached.

“Through the recovery planning process, we are considering the impacts from this eruption and looking at future risk. County leadership will be working with the Recovery Task Force and community stakeholders on policy decisions, recovery strategies and projects,” Disaster Recovery Officer Douglas Le said.

Costs are estimated at about $100 million excluding the recently restored highway, county officials said.

Restoring Pohoiki Road is the next top priority and is estimated about $28 million in repairs, officials said.

“We are, as a community, really begging that they continue their efforts and try as expeditiously as possible (to) begin opening that road,” said resident Smiley Burrows, who owns property nearby.

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