(BIVN) – Crews were busy on Friday, high atop the lava flow that cut Highway 137 during the recent lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kīlauea Volcano.
At approximately 10:45 p.m. HST May 19, a lava flow from the fissure eruption in Leilani Estates crossed the highway at the 13-mile marker and entered the ocean, between Pohoʻiki Bay and MacKenzie State Park. That flow became inactive and later, a more voluminous flow from Fissure 8 formed a different ocean entry at Kapoho, destroying the entire village by the sea. The area between the two lava flows – including several homes and the treasured Isaac Hale Beach Park at Pohoʻiki – became isolated.
The effort to reclaim the south-side of the Highway 137 lava flow got underway suddenly and with little fanfare. There was no announcement from Hawaiʻi County officials. In a Facebook post, Ikaika Marzo reported that Sanborn General Contractors is doing the job. A blessing was held at the location before work began.
A Hawaiʻi County spokesperson later said that the effort will result in an emergency road through 1 mile of lava, and will be for the use of residents and landowners only. Officials estimate the project could take “several weeks”, or less. Eventually, the new path will provide access to Isaac Hale Beach Park. There is currently no water service to the park, the county says.
UPDATE: Hawaiʻi County Public Works Deputy Director Merrick Nishimoto confirmed that the emergency road will be built on top of the flow, as opposed to cutting a path directly through the large wall of ʻaʻa lava. Nishimoto said this will save money and avoid potential problematic encounters with hot rock, since lava is such an effective insulator. More permanent solutions will be considered in the future.