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FEMA Public Assistance

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Three Hawai‘i County Departments – Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and Water Supply (which is semi-autonomous) applied for Public Assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Funding would address losses of infrastructure and facilities, with a 25% County match. As of March 2020, funding has been approved for roads and waterlines. 

Under Public Assistance, the County and FEMA establish a scope of work, including cost estimates, to rebuild infrastructure or facilities that were destroyed during the 2018 Kīlauea eruption. Alternative projects can be pursued if it's determined that the infrastructure or facilities shouldn't be rebuilt. The grant pays for construction costs, including any cost overages.

Within that program, FEMA allows for a capped-grant model authorized under Section 428 of the Stafford Act. Alternative projects also can be proposed under this program. However, any funding not spent on scoped projects can be reallocated to additional recovery and mitigation projects, granting the County additional flexibility.

FEMA-eligible Projects

  • Roads that were inundated during the eruption.
    • Highway 137, Pohoiki Road, Leilani Avenue, Hinalo Street, Honuaula Street and Lighthouse Road.
  • Water lines damaged during the eruption.
  • Damages to Isaac Hale Beach Park and Ahalanui Beach Park as a result of lava inundation.

What happens after the departments and FEMA agree on repair costs? 

There are two options: Repair damaged infrastructure or facilities or determine alternative projects. 

Public Works

Repair Roads

After FEMA and Public Works agree on the total fixed estimate for the road repairs, FEMA’s Environmental and Historic Preservation (EHP) team will review the proposed road repairs to ensure compliance with all federal environmental and historic preservation requirements.

Once the federal EHP process is complete, the County can begin work on roads selected for repair. If construction begins before FEMA completes the EHP review, FEMA funding for that road will be jeopardized.

Determine Alternate Projects

Once one or more alternate projects are identified, FEMA will review the scope of work for the projects and approve them individually. Each project will have to go through its own EHP review process. That review will not impact work already begun on other roads or other alternate projects that have already been approved.

Water Supply

The Hawai‘i County Department of Water Supply (DWS) lost use of two reservoirs and about 14.5 miles of pipeline as a result of the 2018 Kīlauea eruption.

Due to the ongoing presence of high temperatures, and changes in topography, DWS has no plans at this time to restore the water pipes since the infrastructure will not survive those conditions. Testing of a private well near Pohoiki Road showed the water to be brackish and not suitable for consumption or use at Isaac Hale Beach Park. 

DWS is assessing what projects should be funded with that money in coordination with the recovery planning process. 


The Federal Highway Administration is reimbursing the County for the cost of restoring Highway 132. That cost was approximately $5.75 million as of November 2019. To date, the County has received the same amount in reimbursement.