Preparedness & Recovery

Preparing for Lava Threat Costs Hawaii’s Big Island at Least $15 Million

FEMA has reimbursed Hawaii County more than $1.6 million in costs incurred while preparing for the lava threat from Kilauea Volcano.

by Dan Nakaso, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser / April 16, 2015
The main front of the Puna lava flow closest to the town of Pahoa has stalled, but remains active on Nov. 3, 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Katie Gray)

(TNS) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reimbursed Hawaii County more than $1.6 million in costs incurred while preparing for the lava threat from Kilauea Volcano, but county officials are still hoping for another $10 million — and counting.

Although the threat appears over, county officials believe their lava-related costs will tally at least $15 million, and they're hoping FEMA will continue to reimburse 75 percent of it.

Among the county's big-ticket items were three roads that were rebuilt at a total cost of $14.3 million to provide residents of the Lower Puna District with an escape route should lava cross Highway 130, the main road in and out.

FEMA already has paid $1.1 million of the county's $2.1 million cost to rebuild Railroad Avenue. The money went to the state, which will distribute it to the county.

But the county will also be sending FEMA bills of $301,000 to rebuild Government Beach Road and $11.9 million to restore Chain of Craters Road through Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park.

After the roads, the next single biggest cost related to the lava threat was $765,000 in overtime, mostly for police and firefighters, said Deanna Sako, county finance director.

FEMA spokeswoman Kelly Hudson said federal officials are reviewing all of the reimbursement requests.

"The process begins with an estimate of what they expect to spend," Hudson said. "When it's all said and done, it will be an estimated $15 million."

©2015 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.