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Public Services and Infrastructure

About the Public Services and Infrastructure working group
Note from John Whalen of PlanPacific:

To minimize the duplication of effort among the various Working Groups, it is suggested that the Public Facilities & Infrastructure Working Group focus on planning of facilities for basic infrastructure that is not related to transportation, such as water, waste disposal, and police and fire facilities. This group may also want to consider approaches to finance improvements to infrastructure in non-conforming subdivisions.
The Transportation Working Group will address facilities for travel (i.e., highways, streets, emergency access routes, and bicycle, pedestrian and mass transit facilities).
The Social Services Working Group can focus on affordable housing, as well as police-related programs (e.g., Weed & Seed, Neighborhood Watch, etc.). Social Services may also suggest locations for community-support facilities (e.g., schools, medical clinics/hospitals, libraries, senior housing and centers) that are not explicitly the kuleana of Public Facilities & Infrastructure.

Preliminary Themes, Goals, and Objectives from the Small Group Meetings

These themes (recurring ideas) were derived from 130 small group meetings conducted across the Puna district.

Preliminary Themes (PUBL – 50, GOV, MED, UTL – WST, WTR)
  1. 24/7 medical facility (emergency)
  2. Adequate Fire & Police Service
  3. Better Enforcement of Law
  4. Improve Recycling
  5. Access to County Water – Lower Puna
  6. Limitations on the Development of County Water – Volcano
  7. Local Government Representation & Decision-making
Preliminary Goal – To achieve an increase in public services and infrastructure in Puna that is commensurate with the defined current and future needs.

Preliminary Objectives

These objectives have been derived from themes generated from 3,394 ideas provided by broad citizen participation. The numbers in parentheses indicates which theme or themes were used to develop the objectives.

A. Provide adequate health care facilities and services to meet the needs of all residents in Puna district (1)

B. Increase police and fire protection to enhance public safety throughout Puna (2)

C. Increase the presence of Neighborhood Watch (3)

D. Facilitate the effective utilization of existing recycling facilities and minimize waste (4)

E. Expand access to County water in the most feasible areas of Puna (5)

F. Limit unnecessary development of the County’s water system in Volcano Village area (6)

G. Increase local representation in government and strengthen the local communities role in decision making. (&)

H. Increase transparency in government through utilization of information technology (8)

Excerpts from Previous Plans and Current Projects

Considerable time, thought and community-wide effort has been applied to the issue of public services and infrastructure in Puna over the past decade or more, resulting in a number of plans that have made specific recommendations. Pertinent excerpts from these plans are provided below.

"The geography of Puna ranges from rocky shoreline to rainforests. Annual rainfall is generally heavy with most of the district receiving over 100 inches per year. Flooding along the Hawaii Belt Road and the highway between Keaau and Pahoa have been historical problems, however, highway improvements have mitigated much of the flooding along these stretches of road."

"The permeable soils and the lack of development help to minimize flooding and damage to life and property. As development continues, flooding becomes more and more of an issue. The conversion of old sugar cane land to other crops or uses may increase runoff and the likelihood of flooding. Recorded flooding has mainly been attributed to surface sheet flows that are likely to occur anywhere."

"Systems that incorporate diversion channels to intercept sheet flows and main channels to transport the flows through an area have been proposed for Keaau and Pahoa. The State Department of Transportation (DOT) has installed culverts to facilitate the movement or storm water and minimize overtopping of the road in certain sections."

"Beginning in 1938, a series of water diversion walls totaling over 1.5 miles in length and varying 6 to 12 feet in height were built to divert water into Hawaiian Acres by the Olaa Sugar Company (Amfac). This channel also receives overflow water from the Mountain View Drainage Improvements developed in the early 1980s."

"The entire coastline is susceptible to tsunami and hurricane surge inundation. However, much of the coastline is undeveloped and/or has high cliffs, rendering most of the developed areas outside of the inundation zone."

"The Keaau public office complex serves the entire district and houses police, fire, and courtroom services. No other State agencies are located here due to the district’s relatively close proximity to the Hilo complex. Post office facilities are located in Keaau, Kurtistown, Mountain View, Pahoa, and Volcano."

"The County maintains a public works baseyard in Kurtistown and a State Highways baseyard is located in Mountain View. The State facilities appear adequate. The County baseyard may be relocated if land becomes available."

"Puna has two County established fire/EMS stations located in Keaau and Pahoa. The Keaau station is specified as a 24 hour facility. The rest of the county is serviced by 24 hour volunteer facilities located in Hawaiian Beaches, Hawaiian Acres, Fern Acres, Fern Forest, and Volcano. A joint County/volunteer facility is located in Hawaiian Paradise Park for a total of nine fire stations."

"The police station headquarters for Puna is housed in the Keaau public office complex covering the entire district. A substation is located in Pahoa."

"Health services are provided by two privately operated clinics in Pahoa and Keaau. Because of the relative low income and lack of medical coverage for residents, providers are reluctant to locate in Puna."

"Solid waste transfer stations are located in Pahoa, Kalapana, Volcano, Glenwood, and Keaau. Increasingly strict requirements for solid waste are rapidly increasing the cost of new landfill sites. However, recycling and resource recovery in conjunction with advancing technology indicate that future waste disposal sites should be sufficient in size and location."

"There are three public cemeteries serving Kaimu, Malama-Ki, and Kehena. The Kehena cemetery has been covered by lava flow. Use and maintenance of cemeteries is on a limited basis."

"Puna currently has four major public water systems: Olaa-Mountain View, Pahoa, Kapoho, and Kalapana."

"The Olaa-Mountain View system is composed of eleven service areas and extends along the Volcano Road from the former Puna Sugar Company mill to the Olaa Reservation Lots, and along the Keaau-Pahoa road to the Kaloli Drive. Water for the Olaa-Mountain View system is supplied by three deep wells, two of which are located at the former Puna Sugar Company mill site. The third is near Olaa, between Keaau and Kurtistown. The Olaa well is the primary system well with a maximum pumping capacity of 2.0 million gallons per day (mgd)."

"The Pahoa system extends from Keonepoko Homesteads, along portions of Kapoho and Pohoiki roads, to Kapoho."

"The Kalapana system extends from Keauohana Forest Reserve along Highway 13 to the Kaimu Beach intersection and ends in the vicinity of Kaimu. The water for this system is supplied by two deep wells located at Keauohana."

"The Hawaiian Beaches subdivision is served by a private system installed by the developer."

"The Glenwood and Volcano areas are not presently serviced by water systems. Many of the residents depend upon catchment systems to supply their water needs."

"The current water systems are designed for domestic use only. Farmers attached to public water systems cannot use the water for production during dry spells. Catchment tanks on individual lots are critical to fire fighting, however during drought, tanks are likely to be empty. The distance, especially uphill, is the major time and expense factor for delivery of water to catchment tanks. Legislation creating the Department of Water Supply (DWS) directs water rates be ties to the delivery cost, but DWS policy is to charge a uniform rate. This discourages the development of water systems in mauka areas because the extra energy cost must be spread to all customers."

"Presently, most residents in Puna are serviced by individual wastewater treatment systems. Septic and Cesspool systems will probably be continued until increased population distribution and densities make it economically feasible to install municipal wastewater systems."

"Residents near the coast are much more vulnerable to groundwater pollution from individual wastewater systems because of the relative proximity of groundwater to the surface. Close proximity of groundwater to the surface reduces the amount of filtration that can occur before effluent reaches the groundwater. The near-shore environment may also be affected because of reduced filtration."

“In order to comply with the federal Clean Water Act, the future need for central sewers must be anticipated for all subdivisions with lots smaller than one acre and for one-acre lots if second dwelling [ohana dwellings] approvals continue” (Puna Community Development Plan, 1995)."

"If Puna home buyers and builders are informed of the potential requirement to connect to sewers, they may be able to reduce connection cost by negotiating home costs or siting structures to anticipate connection."

The County of Hawai'i General Plan, adopted by ordinance in 2005, sets the land use and community development policy for the County of Hawai'i, and is intended to serve as a guide for state and federal government and private sector, as well.

"Courses of Action:
Consider and encourage the use of a variety of mechanisms to provide the necessary infrastructure in non-conforming subdivisions.
Work with community groups to explore possible avenues for financing infrastructural improvements within the non-conforming subdivisions.
As development increases within the district, the drainage systems designed for the existing village areas shall be implemented.
Conduct an update of the County of Hawaii “Drainage Master Plan” and the “Mountain View Drainage Study” and provide improvements as recommended by the updates.
Seek assistance to develop a comprehensive flood study for the subdivisions between and along Highways 11 and 130.
A review of the possibility of 24-hour fire and emergency medical service for the entire district should be conducted and expansion of the public office facilities should be considered in accord with district needs.
Police services and facilities should be expanded to adequately meet the needs of the district.
Maintenance of cemetery sites shall be improved.
Provide additional solid waste transfer stations as the need arises.
Continue to improve inadequate water system facilities.
Water source investigation and exploration should be continued in order to provide service for anticipated needs.
Investigate additional groundwater sources in the Olaa area.
Investigate alternative means to finance the extension of water systems to subdivisions that rely on catchment.
The use of cesspools shall be discontinued in the coastal areas where cesspools do not function satisfactorily to meet water quality standards. Individual household aerobic treatment units approved by the State Health Department and the County of Hawaii could be utilized in these areas. Future sewage systems for the Puna area would then naturally commence with service to the lower coastal areas.
Coordinate with W.H. Shipman Ltd. in the planning and development of a sewerage system for the Keaau area."

In 1995, the County of Hawai'i secured services of a consultant to complete the Puna Community Development Plan. While it was not adopted, this document sets forth some specific recommendations for public services and infrastructure:

  • A future hospital should be sought for Waikahekahe, to be developed first as an out-patient clinic, medical offices, and social service provider.
  • The state should cooperate with the subdivisions to reserve future health service center sites.
  • The County and State should collaborate with subdivisions to locate and reserve future sites for recycling, waste disposal, resource recovery, and energy production options.
  • The County and State should collaborate to develop legislation which provides disposal fees for vehicles at the time of purchase and business opportunity for removal and recycling of abandoned vehicles.
  • Maintenance of cemetery sites shall be improved.
  • Provide additional solid waste transfer stations as the need arises.
  • Study the use of Transferable Development Rights (TDR) to reduce residential densities in areas subject to severe flooding in upper Puna.
  • The Department of Public Works should collaborate with subdivisions, the federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to inform lot owners and developers of drainage problems, the effect of development on drainage, and recommended practices to minimize and prevent increased in run-off in all developing areas.
  • Seek State and Federal funding for comprehensive flood control and drainage study of the upper Puna drainage area including Hawaiian Acres and Orchidland Estates.
  • The County should consider initiating a task group, including all stakeholders in the two associated drainage patterns of Kurtistown/Keaau and Hawaiian Acres/Orchidland Estates flooding, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The task group should, if possible, choose one drainage channel of the two to accept the flood waters and to focus on education, better flood plain management and land use planning to most effectively prevent future damage.
  • Develop new sources and new major water main delivery system along Central Subdivision Corridor. Along it, place fill stations and dedicated tanks for fire fighting.
  • Consider instituting graduated water rates which reflect the cost of energy for pumping uphill.
  • Collaborate with the State Department of Agriculture to develop agricultural water systems suitable to meet the needs of Puna’s diversified agriculture industry. Encourage the State to explore the possibility of assisting agricultural water cooperatives using aboveground delivery systems in agricultural areas.
  • Standards for water tanks should be adopted by the State Department of Health as well and the County.
  • Collaborate with local community associations in Rural Town District planning to designate “dispersed infrastructure areas” and other alternative utility districts to preserve lifestyle choices.
  • Encourage the State Department of Health to inform builders at the time of building permit of the long-term prospects for central sewers for the dwelling being constructed so that the dwelling may be placed on the lot to facilitate connection if and when it is required.
  • Collaborate with the subdivisions and the Big Island Resource Conservation and Development Council to evaluate potential for alternative low-flow treatment systems for small communities as opposed to large central systems.
  • Encourage the State Department of Health to anticipate and mitigate the long-term problems of transition from present septic requirements to compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.
  • Locate and reserve sites for future sewage treatment plants where they will be needed.
  • As much as possible, install adequate toilets and treatment systems at coastal recreation sites.

In addition to these County-sponsored plans, there are community-initiated plans for Hawaiian Acres, Hawaiian Paradise Park and Volcano that contain recommendations for public services and infrastructure:

Hawaiian Acres Master Plan (1999):
"Police services are currently based in Keaau, approximately 5 to 10 miles distant. Hawaiian Acres currently has an effective Community Watch Program (HACWP) that works as the eyes and ears for the Puna police. It is the desire of the HACWP to have a police sub-station within the subdivision. The county-owned connector lot on 9 Rd. is the chosen location by HACWP. However at this time the current population and county budgetary concerns probably does not warrant or justify such.
County fire services are currently based in Keaau, approximately 5 to 10 miles distant. When the population requires such, a manned fire station will be mandated. Hawaiian Acres currently has a Volunteer Fire Dept. (VFD) trained and supplied by the county, the community, and by donations. This is a very effective public and community service. Hawaiian Acres plans to expand this critical service due to the large size of the subdivision. Plans for the future include a 20,000 gallon water tank (from the county) and a certified community owned water tanker truck to augment our VFD and supply water to residents at a reasonable fee during drought conditions.
Medical facilities exist in Hilo, approximately 25 miles distant. Hawaiian Acres does not plan or expect these services to be made any more readily available.
We will retain individual household rain catchment. Common sense dictates that residents, when given the option, would choose to have extra water catchment capacity as opposed to county water and its cost to the individual and the community.
We support obtaining a community-owned water tanker that could subsidize community development funding, with discounts to HACA members and contributors to road maintenance funds.
We support providing private or county water lines without mandatory hook-up and without visual impacts of over-the-ground lines. Cost of project would be paid only by those wanting such service. (The most recent estimate per lot, for municipal water, is $18,000 per lot.)
We support construction of county, community or county/community partnership water wells, or have large water tanks available to residents. Current Department of Water Supply plans call for exploratory wells near 1 Rd. and E Rd. They estimate the aquifer to be about 400` below the surface.
Some residents advocate making a large reservoir at the top of Hawaiian Acres to draw from for fire and emergencies. Costs would still be substantial. With water and soil conservation agency assistance or grants, and community help, this may practical. We support building a reservoir where the diversion walls currently exist.
Wasterwater is managed at each residence in the form of cesspools, self-composting toilets and other methods. There is no central line or treatment facility. If population were allowed to increase significantly, different wastewater standards would apply. Upgrades would become mandatory.
We reject county sewers.
We support retaining cesspools and septic systems with health code enforcement. Planning of septic tanks, cesspools, etc. should correlate with knowledge of lava tube caves. Wasterwater should not be channeled into lava caves. We support stringent controls.
We support and encourage the installation of composting or anaerobic toilets for new homes. We support further education of our residents on this subject."

Hawaiian Paradise Park Master Plan (Revised 2005):
"Pursue establishing a water system using private water system companies."

Volcano Vision 2020:
  • Provide locally based medical care for the Volcano area.
  • Attract a family-practice physician and/or advanced practitioner/mid-wife to serve residents of the Volcano area, based either at KMC and/or in the Community.
  • Establish an Emergency Care Unit with an on-site ambulance as the population warrants. Support helicopter service for medical emergencies.
  • Provide home care and personal care services, including custodial caregiver programs, to community residents either through resources in available in the Volcano area, or through information about and referral to other agencies for assistance.
  • Establish a facility, financially accessible to all, which would enable Volcano’s senior population to live with dignity and independence.
  • Support the creation of an Assisted Living Facility that will provide a safe place for frail elderly or those who no longer feel comfortable living alone, first response area 24 hours a day with three meals a day, laundry and grooming shop, guidance on obtaining health equipment and appropriate personal and health care services, activities to meet socialization needs and wellness programs, and transportation.
The following public works and public safety projects are underway in Puna.
  • New fire and police stations in Pahoa and Keeau. The Pahoa site is combined with the park and gymnasium on Highway 130. The location of the Kea’au site has not yet been determined, but mostly likely on Highway 11.
  • Emergency water spigots are planned for locations at: Mountain View Gym, Kurtistown Ballpark, Keaau Transfer Station, Hawaiian Paradise Park Fire Station, Nanawale Estates Arena, and Kapoho-Pohoiki Road Junction.
More information and location maps for the above projects are available in the Puna Capital Improvement Projects presentation - see Related Content below.

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« January 2019 »
Upcoming Events
South Kohala CDP Action Committee Meeting Jan 28, 2019 05:00 PM - 07:00 PM — Waikoloa Village Association Community Room - 68-1792 Melia Street, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738
North Kohala CDP AC Meeting 01.28.2019 Jan 28, 2019 05:00 PM - 07:00 PM — Hisaoka Gym Conference Rm., 54-382 Kamehameha Park Road, Kapa‘au, HI 96755
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