Council OKs interim lava recovery plan

  • Heavy machinery cuts through the lava over Highway 132 on June 19 in Pahoa. (Tribune-Herald/file photo)

HILO — An interim strategy to guide the county’s recovery from the 2018 Kilauea eruption was formally adopted at Wednesday’s meeting of the Hawaii County Council.

The Interim Recovery Strategy, which was approved without debate by the council, is intended to focus ongoing recovery efforts and provide a framework for future recoveries in the event of similar disasters.

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The strategy, developed by the county Department of Research and Development, identifies a number of immediate priorities, each one to be addressed by members of the county recovery team, who will provide monthly updates on each priority beginning on Oct. 1.

The strategy promises that the first update for each priority — which include rebuilding infrastructure, defining financial tracking, establishing a case management program, and more — will include lists of all resources and people involved in each priority.

Included in the strategy is a list of funding sources already committed to the emergency response to the eruption, as well as short- and long-term recovery efforts, totaling more than $180 million between 2018 and 2021. Also listed are additional funding sources that are currently being sought, including a $50 million allocation from the Federal Highway Administration for Highway 132 restoration work.

Similarly, a work-in-progress budget is included in the strategy, allocating more than $170 million of recovery funding to infrastructure projects.

Other goals listed in the strategy include improving transparency with the community, accelerating construction of a Puna boat ramp, and assisting in the relocation of Kua O Ka La New Century Public Charter School, which was destroyed in the eruption.

Council members thanked each other and Research and Development Director Diane Ley for the creation of the long-awaited plan, which Councilman Tim Richards called “a culmination of quite a bit of work over the last year.”

“This whole thing will be used as a case study,” Richards predicted, adding that the county had to “write the book as we went” as the disaster progressed.

The interim strategy was developed concurrently with a comprehensive recovery strategy that is expected to be completed by the end of the year and will supersede the interim strategy when adopted.

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The text of the interim strategy can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y354quxy. Further recovery updates can be found at the Hawaii County website and its Kilauea recovery site at recovery.hawaiicounty.gov.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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