Lava swallows land Big Island was to buy

KAILUA-KONA (AP) — Lava flows have largely swallowed a $2.7 million land parcel that the Big Island government planned to buy to use as a buffer between development and the Waiopae tide pools.

About two-thirds of the 284-acre property in the Vacationland community has been inundated, including the tide pools, following the Kilauea volcano eruption, West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday.

The parcel is currently in escrow as the county awaits notice from the state to proceed with the purchase, said Hamana Ventura, the Hawaii County property manager. The state Legacy Land conservation program had committed $1.3 million for the deal, but the grant funding has not been finalized.

“Once we get clarification and a decision from Legacy Lands, then the county will be coming up with a game plan,” Ventura said.

The county council approved the purchase in 2013 and negotiations began in 2014. The land borders Vacationland development and the marine life conservation district.

The Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission at a meeting Monday discussed options for the land, including if the county could back out of the deal.

“Is there any sense or common sense to ask Legacy Land to not move forward?” Commissioner Koohan Paik-Mander said. “Does it make sense to tell Legacy Land we want to withdraw this whole deal?”

Commissioners were informed that they do not have the authority to back out of the deal.

The property still has value and it could serve an educational purpose for scientists and students studying lava flows, Ventura said.

“Maybe it will give everyone updated information when it comes to current and updated flows,” Ventura said. “If you get a chance to study volcanology in real time and see it as it unfolds, that’s something else.”