Contingency Plans Underway as Lava Threat Monitored
By Wendy Osher
Danger from a recent June 27 lava flow has forced the closure of all state unencumbered lands in the area adjacent to the Kaʻohe Homesteads in Puna on Hawaiʻi Island, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced yesterday.
The Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense Agency said the flow remains about 100 yards wide, with very little activity recorded yesterday, and does not pose an immediate threat to area communities.
Contingency plans are currently in the works for area public schools.
The Department of Education yesterday announced work to build an alternate site for elementary students in preparation for lava to eventually cross Pahoa’s highway 130.
The alternate site at the lower parking lot of Keaʻau High, is estimated to cost $9 million and will be able to accommodate 17 classrooms and up to 500 students and staff.
Officials with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the flow advanced 70 yards toward the northeast since Wednesday.
During an overflight on Wednesday, HVO officials say small breakouts were observed including one along the north edge of a previously active portion of the flow.
State officials with the Department of Land and Natural Resources say they have been receiving reports of tour groups and individuals wandering onto state lands to get a better look at the lava. The department notes that entry into closed lands is a violation of state law and is subject to a penalty of up to $5,000 for a first offense, with enhanced penalties in place under an emergency proclamation issued by the governor.
In a press release statement, DLNR chairperson William Aila Jr. the department, “intends to prosecute any trespassers who willfully violate the closures and place enforcement officers and emergency personnel at increased risk.”