(BIVN) – County administration officials were questioned during a Hawaii County Council committee meeting in Hilo on Tuesday, as to why they have yet to establish a public lava viewing area somewhere in Puna.
“Even if it’s just bringing people in to do shuttle tours, where they never leave the shuttle and they stay on county or state highways, it would really tremendously help to bring people in to Pahoa town right now,” said Puna councilwoman Eileen O’Hara. “So can somebody speak to that, and what the status is? And what the holdup is?”
“We have been, I believe for about six weeks now, exploring alternatives to lava viewing,” answered Hawaii County Research and Development Director Diane Ley, “and multiple sites have been overrun by lava on an almost daily basis. Eligible candidates become overrun by lava, it spills out of the channel. There was a whirlwind one day that was splashing lava. There are seepage that comes out of the walls of the channel. There are issues with hazardous fumes as well as laze, and so we’ve been really challenged. I believe we looked at six different sites and it’s just been an ongoing challenge and I understand the frustration.”
“I understand there’s no easy answers,” O’Hara said, “but the public has been giving really good recommendation which just doesn’t seem to be heard, and that is that we don’t need a physical lava viewing site. What we need is to allow certain tour companies to conduct a lava viewing. They bring the people to Pahoa and we have parking. Bus parking. And let them go out to see the lava.”
“I promise all of you,” said Mayor Harry Kim, stepping into the conversation, “that we have been looking at this for a long time. Our priority first has to be the residents that we are in charge of.
“To create a safe viewing area is a high priority,” Kim continued. “I’m glad [the department heads] didn’t say they picked one and I just turned it down. Because the USGS concern of fumes, and would approve only one bus at a time. One per hour. And that’s also impractical.”
Mayor Kim assured the council the lava viewing area is a high priority, and “we’re working on it.”