(BIVN) – Residents of Puna, in need of better access to their lands following the eruption of Kīlauea on the lower East Rift Zone, met on Thursday to discuss their options.
Several neighbors living in the area of Waʻawaʻa Subdivision, Papaya Farms Road, Noni Farms, Cinder Road and Kapoho sat together at a private farm located along Government Beach Road in order to share their thoughts. Many are unable to reach their property unless by helicopter.
Attendees included Puna councilwoman Eileen O’Hara, Kapoho-area landowner Lono Lyman, and meeting organizer Smiley Burrows, who told everyone about the online petition she started.
“Our community in Kapoho needs funding to rebuild roads to access our homes and farms,” Burrows wrote. “In learning the county is allocating no funding to hundreds of residents and farms, I am speaking out for our community, please support our petition to return to our homes.” The petition already has 1,345 signatures.
Councilwoman O’Hara told the group that she has submitted a council resolution urging the administration to recover lava-inundated Highway 132. The resolution, which will be heard in committee on November 1, reads:
RESOLUTION NO. 732-18
A RESOLUTION URGING THE COUNTY OF HAWAII TQ MAKE RECOVERING THOSE SECTIONS OF COUNTY HIGHWAY 132 THAT WERE INUNDATED WITH LAVA FROM THE MAY 3, 2018 VOLCANIC ERUPTION A TOP PRIORITY IN PUNA’ S RECOVERY EFFORTS, AND COMMENCE PLANNING THE FUNDING AND ROUTING OF A REPLACEMENT ROAD AND IMMEDIATE IMPLEMENTATION OF ALTERNATIVE ROUTES TO ACCOMMODATE RESIDENTS OF AFFECTED COMMUNITIES.
WHEREAS, the volcanic eruption in Puna that started May 3, 2018, has resulted in the loss of a significant number of miles of both public and private roadways; and
WHEREAS, approximately 3 miles of County Highway 132, which provides the primary access to much of Kapoho, from Lava Tree State monument to Cape Kumukahi was covered by lava from the May 3rd eruption; and
WHEREAS, in early May 2018, the County paved a ten-foot wide asphalt strip of the previously graveled 3.8 miles of Government Beach Road from the Hawaiian Shores Recreational Estates terminus at the privately-owned Papio Street, which has a 40-foot right-of way, to the remnant of County Highway 137 built across the 1960 lava flow; and
WHEREAS, the paving of Government Beach Road, which is narrow and winding, was completed to accommodate access for the Kapoho area residents and businesses given the direction taken by the May 3rd lava event; and
WHEREAS, the recently paved section of Government Beach Road is part of the Old King’s Highway and has always been deemed an emergency access road by the County; and
WHEREAS, the initial quarter mile of Government Beach Road no longer follows the original road right-of-way due to cliff subsidence into the ocean and the entire section known as Honolulu Landing is fully within the tsunami zone, making it unsafe as an emergency route during high surf events, such as hurricanes and tsunamis; and
WHEREAS, due to the May 3rd lava event, Government Beach Road is now the only access for hundreds of households living along Government Beach Road, in the Waʻawaʻa Subdivision, on Papaya Farms Road, and in the area known as Noni Farms Road, placing these residents in peril due to inability to evacuate by roadway when the area experiences another extreme weather event; and
WHEREAS, due to the impacts of the May 3rd lava event, the Kapoho Cinder Pits continue to be utilized by local trucking businesses providing much needed materials for road building, which results in approximately 50 commercial truck trips daily of thirty-three cubic yard cinder trucks traversing the narrow Government Beach Road, navigating the narrow and privately held Papio Street, and continuing six miles up Kahakai Boulevard to Highway 130, through a residential neighborhood where speed limits are set at 35 miles-per-hour, with no paved shoulders and limited pedestrian walkways, thus creating a nuisance and public safety issue; and
WHEREAS, a realignment of the Government Beach Road with Coastal Puna Parkway owned by the Hawaiian Shores Community Association, which has an eighty foot right-of-way, twenty-four feet of asphalt, and well maintained grassy shoulders, is supported by the landowner (Habashi) of the property known as Honolulu Landing and desired by the Hawaiian Shores Community Association, owner of Coastal Puna Parkway which the association would like to dedicate to the County; and
WHEREAS, the realignment of the Government Beach Road with Coastal Puna Parkway would resolve the problems of subsidence and inundation by the ocean along the stretch of the road known as Honolulu Landing and provide the County with a road right-of-way extending from Hawaiian Paradise Park to Kapoho; and
WHEREAS, the nearly 150 active farms, homes, and agricultural lands in the area of Kapoho referred to as Noni Farms that were not inundated with lava, must now take a lengthy circuitous route along old cane roads, across private properties, down the narrow, windy and hilly section of the Government Beach Road connecting to privately owned Papio Street, and then six miles up Kahakai Boulevard to reach Highway 130 increasing the commute to Pahoa by approximately 30- 35 minutes since the lava event; and
WHEREAS, there exists an old railroad right-of-way in this area that connects to Kahala Street (Railroad) in Hawaiian Shores Recreational Estates and another section connects to Kehau Boulevard in Nanawale Estates; and
WHEREAS, gaining a perpetual right-of-way from the four landowners (Lyman, Chow, Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estates, and State of Hawaiʻi) holding title to these railroad rights-of-way can be achieved and a portion of this alternative access has already been developed as a gravel roadway for emergency use only and remains behind a locked gate inaccessible to the public; and
WHEREAS, developing these alternative roadways was already under consideration as a part of a road connectivity plan for Lower Puna with an internal working group spearheaded by the Mayor’s office to accommodate future growth. The May 3rd volcanic eruption has increased the urgency to develop these alternatives; and
WHEREAS, the alternative road access involving the realignment of Government Beach Road and opening of the Railroad right-of-way provide more immediate solutions for accommodating land owners’, needs for access in the Kapoho area, but do not resolve all access issues such as large commercial truck traffic along residential roadways and access to the many hundreds of acres of farmland and dozens of homesteads that were not inundated by lava and which were located south of Highway 132; and
WHEREAS, large landowners and commercial operations with expertise, materials, and heavy equipment are interested in partnering with the County to open alternative accesses and rebuild Highway 132; and
WHEREAS, rebuilding the sections of Highway 132 that were inundated by lava either along the existing right-of-way or along an alternative path, will resolve access issues for nearly all the Kapoho area communities while private landowners will need to take the lead in developing secondary access from a rebuilt Highway 132; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE COUNTY OF HAWAII that it urges the County administration to develop these proposed alternative access routes to realign Government Beach Road and open the Railroad right-of-way to Kahala-Street and/or Kehau Boulevard as soon as possible.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that rebuilding Highway, 132 and identifying funding sources, obtaining road easements, planning and engineering road construction should be the highest priority for the County Administration.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the County Clerk shall transmit a copy of this resolution to the Honorable Mayor Harry S. Kim at the Office of the Mayor; Director Allan Simeon of the Department of Public Works; Director Michael Yee of the Planning Department; Director Diane Ley of the Office of Research and Development, Director Dianna Sako of the Finance Department; and Joseph Kamelamela of the Office of the Corporation Counsel.