Chain of Craters Road to be Rebuilt as Emergency Route

The National Park Service announced today that it will work with the State and County of Hawai‘i to construct an emergency route along the former Chain of Craters Road to assist residents of lower Puna, whose access to the rest of the island would be cut off if lava covers Highway 130.

“For the past several weeks, we have been putting all of our efforts into getting approval for an alternate route that can be used during this devastating emergency,” said Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.

Scientists at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory estimated on Sept. 19 that based on the flow’s location and rate of advancement at that time, lava from Kīlauea Volcano’s Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent could reach Highway 130 in 21 days – but noted as of Sept. 22, the lava flow advance rate has slowed.

The route, mostly within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, would provide emergency access for the community and would not be open for visitor use. Nearly eight miles of the coastal section of Chain of Craters Road is buried beneath rough, hardened lava, and 5.4 miles is within the national park.

The open section of Chain of Craters Road spans 19 miles from the summit of Kīlauea to sea level within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Opened in 1965, the road has been blocked by lava for 37 of its 49-year existence.

To protect park resources, the emergency route will follow the old lava-covered road alignment as much as practicable.

“The NPS is deeply concerned about this potential disaster to our community, our friends, families, employees and volunteers,” said Orlando. “We have been working diligently with our partners to find an acceptable solution in accordance with federal law,” she said.

Governor Signs Supplemental Emergency Proclamation in Preparation of Lava Flow Crossing Highway 130

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed a supplemental emergency proclamation to include the repair, restorations, rebuilding, or reestablishment of Chain of Craters Road, for use as an alternate emergency route should the June 27th lava flow cross Highway 130 near Pahoa and isolate communities in lower Puna from the rest of Hawaii County.

“Even though the lava flow appears to have slowed to a halt for the time being, the state and Hawaii County are prepared and moving forward together with contingency plans in the event the lava does progress farther,” Gov. Abercrombie said.

Today’s proclamation, supplemental to the emergency proclamation signed on Sept. 5, also extends the disaster emergency relief period through Dec. 1, 2014.

The original proclamation suspended certain laws as needed for emergency purposes, including state restrictions on reestablishing abandoned roads that may be used should lava cross Highway 130. It also activated the Major Disaster Fund set aside by the state Legislature for disaster relief and facilitates access to emergency resources at the state and federal levels.

Residents are also encouraged to enroll in local notification systems and monitor local radio and television broadcasts.