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USACE marks 100 days of debris removal in Lahaina

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractor places erosion control materials on a cleared property during Phase 2 debris removal operations April 05 in Lahaina, Hawaii. Erosion control is used for soil stabilization and is the last step in the debris removal process before right of entry is relinquished back to the County of Maui.

Posted on April 29, 2024

April 25 marked the 100th day of Lahaina debris removal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the wake of the August 2023 wildfires that claimed more than 100 lives, displaced more than 6,000 families and caused around $5.5 billion in property damage on the Hawaiian Island of Maui.

There are currently about 100 USACE employees on Maui supporting a variety of missions including debris removal, temporary housing and a critical public facilities mission that supported the construction of the temporary King Kamehameha III elementary school. The work is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state of Hawaiʻi and the County of Maui.

Col. Eric Swenson, recovery task force commander, uses the terms “Big C” and “Little c” to describe progress in Lahaina. “Little c” describes properties where wildfire ash and debris have been removed but still require other measures, such as hazardous tree inspections, soil testing for toxic substances and a cultural clearance process. To date, USACE has cleared 800 of the approximate 1,600 Lahaina properties it has contracted to clear and returned 300 of those properties to the County of Maui.

“We still have 50 properties where the owners haven’t reached out to the county about applying to join our program,” said Swenson. “We’re reaching out to those families who haven’t contacted Maui County yet to begin the cleanup process. We want them to know about the benefits of this cleanup effort.”

“It’s a difficult process but Maui County is where it starts. When everyone enrolls, people will return to their neighborhoods and they can rebuild knowing there’s not going to be an uncleared lot next door,” he continued. “We are moving as fast as we can to get Maui cleaned up as quickly and safely as possible because we know how important it is for people to move back and start their lives again, in Lahaina.”

USACE has also removed more than 1,900 damaged vehicles from the impacted area and brought them to Pioneer Mill for disposal.

The USACE housing team also continues to make progress on the construction of the temporary housing site, Kilohana, in West Maui. The site includes 169 temporary properties that will house displaced Lahaina families and community members. Construction is expected to begin in May and will include constructing the water and sewer lines, electrical and roads.

Public Safety is the highest priority in the recovery effort. USACE and other federal partners are committed to minimizing risks to the public while respecting the people, environment, and culture of Hawaiʻi.


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