Weeks after several Kalihi homes were damaged during a rock fall, crews from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and Janod Incorporated used a helicopter on Saturday to remove dangerous boulders from the ridge above Kula Kolea Place.
"I kind of feel good cause they're taking off all the rocks falling off from our place so I kind of feel relaxing right now," said resident Tony Labrador.
On April 12, several properties were damaged when large boulders fell down the ridge above Kula Kolea Place and crashed into houses. An investigation revealed that the boulders fell from property owned by the Church of Christ The Redeemed of the Lord.
After several discussions with residents, the Board of Land and Natural Resources gave DLNR the ok to proceed with emergency rockfall mitigation work during a meeting on April 20, saying they want to avoid a potentially hazardous situation.
"The primary interest for the state in this case, because it is private property, is the safety of the residents downhill," said William Aila, DLNR chairperson.
On Saturday, residents were asked to evacuate their homes as a safety precaution while a helicopter flew in the area, hovering above the ridge while crews strapped the boulders to a harness hanging from the helicopter.
"These are small enough for the chopper to pick them up," said Adrian Nikou, an engineer with AECOM, one of the contractors. "I would say, just on the average, around three (feet) by three by two."
Nikou estimated that the largest rocks still weighed about one and-a-half tons each. According to Nikou, the crews determined that they would have come down on their own eventually. "In fact, we were discussing up there, short term, we were concerned about the next big flood and maybe heavy rain that definitely encouraged, encouraged them to slide down again," Nikou said.
The helicopter then flew the rocks to a large truck that was standing by to transport the boulders away from the site.
It took nine helicopter trips to safely remove the potentially dangerous boulders from the ridge. Officials say the project was completed ahead of schedule, and residents were given the all-clear to reenter the area at approximately 1:30 p.m.
"I'm kind of relieved because of the efforts by the state. I appreciate the efforts and everything," said resident Anthony Ling.
The state budgeted $150,000 for the removal project, but Aila believes the final cost will be less than that.
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