Hawaii County Cuts Red Tape for Big Island Repairs

The Hawaii County Council has voted to waive standard construction permit requirements for emergency repairs as the total damage estimate for the Big Island neared $100 million.

The council adopted an emergency ordinance that allows homeowners and businesses directly affected by the Oct. 15 earthquakes to start emergency repair work now and apply for a permit within 60 days.

Structures must be restored to their original condition prior to the earthquakes, and electrical and plumbing work must be performed by a licensed electrician and a plumber.

The ordinance also waives landfill tipping fees for debris resulting from the earthquake.

County officials said they’ve tallied $98.5 million in damages so far on the Big Island, but they expect the number to rise as they conduct more inspections.

The council’s move comes a day after the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it would provide financial assistance to residents and business owners and help the county and state make permanent repairs to damaged public property.

FEMA representatives said they expect to have Disaster Recovery Centers set up by the end of the week, which will remain on the Big Island for three to four months.

Public Works staff have red-tagged, or deemed unsafe, 61 buildings and yellow-tagged, or restricted use of, another 151 buildings, including Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann’s home in Waikoloa.

The Red Cross has surveyed more than 10,000 homes and has offered assistance to every family at a red-tagged home.

The Red Cross also is continuing to provide emergency housing to at least 70 people.

Kawaihae Harbor, the main harbor for the west side of the Big Island, is 25 percent usable, said Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim. But it is 100 percent operational due to expedited loading and unloading and extended operating hours.

Damage to farms and ranches has topped $1 million, with those in the Hamakua, Waimea and Kona areas hardest hit.

Much of the damage is to water and irrigation systems. Up to 100 miles of rock wall –used to contain livestock — has been reported damaged