Project aims to speed rebuilding when necessary

If Tropical Storm Iselle had caused widespread damage to homes or property, officials and agencies would have encouraged owners to graphically document the damage with photos.

With the storm’s passing, the only major damage was reported at Ulupalakua Ranch, where trees uprooted by Iselle destroyed a warehouse and a sheep-shearing shed, among other structures.

Paying close attention to the storm’s aftermath is Jim Buika, Maui County’s lead shoreline planner.

Buika is leading a community advisory group working on a one-year, federally funded $178,000 project to develop post-disaster reconstruction guidelines and protocols for Maui County.

The work is aimed at showing residents how they can rebuild their homes to code and do it quickly. The protocols will ensure homes are safer and stronger, but also environmentally friendly.

“It is first in the nation of its kind and is being closely followed,” Buika said of the project.

As for assessing damage, Buika recommended taking photos of the environment surrounding the damage.

“That way we can begin to assess level of damage even remotely and provide homeowners with advice as to next steps and requirement for a formal inspection,” Buika said in a text message Thursday afternoon.

The project is focusing on Maui’s coastal areas, including Paia, Lahaina, Kihei and Hana, as well as on Molokai and Lanai. It is expected to be completed by January.

Public workshops will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 28 at Helene Hall in Hana, Sept. 22 at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in Kihei, Sept. 29 at the Lahaina Civic Center and Oct. 15 at the Kaunoa Senior Center in Spreckelsville.

Buika said that he wants Maui County residents to be able to rebuild their homes quickly and to county code so they can make timely insurance claims. If home improvement or rebuilding work and/or electrical or plumbing work is not done to code, it could affect insurance reimbursements, he said.

The group’s work also will help preserve the environment.

Buika said that the protocols developed could help prevent further beach erosion, such as preventing seawalls or other structures from being built in areas that would affect the shoreline. If the county can assess and make recommendations on the rebuilding of homes or buildings near the ocean, the information can protect the shoreline and the future potential losses of homes and property, he added.

Although different Maui County departments Thursday were actively looking at how to manage the storm’s impact on residents and property, the aftermath of a disaster and rebuilding would be led by the mayor and the Planning Department, Buika said.

While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Storms Program sponsored the shoreline-focused project, Buika said that the same information and protocols can be applied to inland areas as well.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at