HILO — Puna Geothermal Venture has been given the go-ahead to restore road access to its lava-locked property.
Clearing of the “pioneer road” at the site off Highway 132 began this weekend after PGV received a grubbing and grading permit from Hawaii County, said Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaiian affairs for Ormat Technologies, which owns the 38-megawatt geothermal power plant.
The permit was authorized after Mayor Harry Kim issued a supplemental disaster declaration that allows the county to permit clearing of the fresh lava rock.
PGV sits on a large lease-hold parcel, a corner of which borders the “Y” intersection of Highway 132 and Pohoiki Road.
The main lava channel from the four-month-long eruption crosses the property but spared the plant, which is sandwiched between the channel and a string of fissures.
Kaleikini said the road is being established via the mauka side of the flow near Highway 132.
He said the path will parallel the highway until it reaches the plant’s former driveway. From there, it will traverse the channel, which he estimated to be between 350 and 400 yards across.
The maximum height of the channel is 50 to 60 feet in that area, Kaleikini said. He estimated the road could take a week or two to complete.
Lava has been cooling since it stopped flowing in the channel in August.
A few dozen residences also remain isolated by the lava flows in that area.
Kim said he asked Ormat officials to help provide road access to adjoining properties.
The county recently built a temporary road over fingers of lava that covered portions of Highway 137 between Isaac Hale Beach Park and MacKenzie State Recreation Area.
The county is waiting until six months have passed from when the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reduced its alert level for Kilauea, which occurred in early October, before assessing whether other inundated public roads — such as Highway 132, Pohoiki Road, Leilani Avenue and other portions of Highway 137 — can be restored, or if new routes need to be made.
Kaleikini said Ormat is committed to helping its neighbors regain access, though he noted liability issues would have to be worked out.
He said the highest temperature recorded over the hardened lava channel in the area was about 180 degrees.
As for when PGV could restart operations, Kaleikini said that will depend on assessments that have been mostly on hold without road access. He previously said that could take about 18 months from when a road could be built.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.