Hawaii County Council approves two of three lava disaster aid bills

The Hawaii County Council gave final approval to all but one of three lava disaster aid bills on the table Wednesday.

Bills passed on final reading clear the way to accept $40 million in loans from the state and adds restoration of Highway 132 to the capital budget.

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The council postponed passing another bill to accept $20 million in state grants to the April 24 meeting.

Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz said that was done to provide time for a document to be drafted outlining the plan for how the money would be spent.

“I wanted to make a formal amendment and exhibit to that bill to provide everyone with the clear steps,” she said.

The same wasn’t done for the bill accepting the loans because those are meant to provide the county with money to match federal grants, which come with more strings attached.

The additional state funding would be allocated through a bill the state Legislature passed last month. It has been sent to Gov. David Ige for his signature.

The funds would be on top of the $22 million Ige allocated for disaster response and recovery, related to last year’s Kilauea eruption in lower Puna.

Adding the Highway 132 project to the capital budget will act as a placeholder should the county fully restore lava-covered portions.

Full restoration is anticipated to cost $50 million, with the county contributing $10 million. The rest would come from the Federal Highway Administration.

However, the federal funding depends on the outcome of a study that looks at the feasibility of restoring the road and whether alternate routes should be used.

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The county plans to build a temporary road over the highway by October, with FHA covering the cost.

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

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