All options still on table: Viewing area key to area looking to revive tourism industry

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald The plume from fissure 8 is seen from Pohoiki Road near the intersection of Pahoa-Kapoho Road on June 19, 2018.

HILO — Hawaii County is continuing to pursue a site for a lava viewing area, but overflows from the fissure 8 channel and other hazards are presenting challenges.

Diane Ley, county research and development director who is working on this issue, said four sites have been considered so far, including near the intersection of Pahoa-Kapoho Road and Pohoiki Road. But overflows of the swift-moving lava channel in the area earlier this week made that option a no-go, at least for the time being.

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“It’s going to have to be somewhere else,” she said.

Ley said the evaluation process is like taking “one step forward, two steps back, and one to the side.”

She said county officials know that creating a viewing area is important for many, including drawing tourists back to Pahoa, but safety remains a concern.

“We know how valuable that is going to be to businesses across the island,” Ley said.

Hazards being evaluated include sulfur dioxide levels, laze plumes from the ocean entry in Kapoho and overflows and seeps from the flow.

Public and private lands are being looked at, and the county is open to suggestions.

While it doesn’t have a site selected yet, the county doesn’t plan to let individual vehicles access such a location, Ley said. A shuttle service likely would be provided.

Officials have no timeline for opening a viewing area.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, meanwhile, announced that SBA has approved more than $5 million in federal disaster loans for Hawaii businesses and residents impacted by the Kilauea volcanic eruption and earthquakes that began May 3.

SBA has approved $73,700 for businesses and $4,948,200 for residents to help rebuild and recover from this disaster.

“SBA’s disaster assistance employees are committed to helping businesses and residents rebuild as quickly as possible,” said Tanya N. Garfield, SBA field office director.

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Businesses and residents who sustained damages are encouraged to register prior to the Aug. 13, deadline with the Federal Emergency Management Agency at www.disasterassistance.gov.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.