Hawaii County to open discussions of hazard mitigation plan

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Public meetings have been scheduled to discuss updates to Hawaii County’s multi-hazard mitigation plan, officials said.

The plan consists of the county’s hazard and risk assessment for natural disasters, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Monday.

The plan includes projects to reduce the potential loss of life and property on the Big Island, county officials said.

The multi-hazard mitigation plan is required for the county to be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency funds and must be updated every five years, officials said.

Public meetings have been scheduled Jan. 22, 23, 29, and 30 at four Big Island locations.

The plan is related to and should influence the county’s general plan and emergency operations plan, officials said.

“If we see a hazard, a vulnerable location on the island, and we see a project that would benefit (from) some mitigation, we’ll mention it in this plan and that will allow us to possibly get some federal money to do some mitigation,” Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said.

The latest update comes after the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano, which destroyed 700 structures and homes in lower Puna and displaced 3,000 residents. Nearly 14 square miles (36 square kilometers) of land were inundated with lava during the eruption that continued from May to August.

Part of the updated plan includes “more robust analysis of the volcanic risk on the island,” Magno said.

The analysis is expected to include consideration of different lava zones, including vulnerable areas where fissures could open and eruptions may start, Magno said.

Code and permitting decisions will have to consider the population's exposure to potential hazards, Magno said, adding that the previous plan only addressed volcanic gases.

“Do we allow dense populations to grow in these vulnerable areas,” Magno said.