HILO, Hawaii >> The operators of a Hawaii geothermal power plant have started restoring road access to the property cut off by lava from the Kilauea volcano eruption.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim authorized a vegetation removal and grading permit for Puna Geothermal Venture to clear lava for a road to its site, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Wednesday.
The plant near the intersection of State Highway 132 and Pohoiki Road is sandwiched between the main lava channel and a string of fissures that opened during the eruption.
Work clearing a path began over the weekend, said Mike Kaleikini, a senior director for plant-owner Ormat Technologies. The new road will run parallel to the highway until it reaches the plant’s former driveway. It will then need to cross the lava channel, which is up to 400 yards wide, he said.
The project could take a week or two to complete, Kaleikini said.
The permit was granted after Kim issued a supplemental disaster declaration, which allows the county to permit the clearing of fresh lava rock. Kim said he asked Ormat officials to also help restore road access to adjoining properties.
Kaleikini said Ormat is committed to helping neighbors regain access, but he noted liability issues would need to be worked out.
Restarting operations at the geothermal plant could take about 18 months, Kaleikini said. The timeline will depend on assessments that have been mostly put on hold because of the road access problem.
Big Island officials are waiting to assess if other inundated roads can be restored until six months have passed from when the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reduced the volcano alert level, which occurred in early October.