Lawmaker concerned about falling boulders amid rainy weather
Recent reports of falling rocks, boulders, and a collapse of a rock wall crashing onto people, property, and houses has an Oʻahu area lawmaker concerned.
Early morning Feb. 8, 2023, a boulder crashed into an ʻAiea home. The homeowner, Tyler Ramelb said the rock landed just a few feet from where he and his wife were sleeping, according to reports.
“We’ve been in this position before with boulders falling from a hillside in Kalihi Valley several times during a 10-year period,” said State Representative John Mizuno (D-29 Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights, portion of Lower Kalihi) in a news release. “Unfortunately, much of the rockslides or boulders coming down are both related to the rainy weather and the location, usually along a hillside which naturally has a gravitational pull once the surrounding soil turns to mud.”
Rep. Mizuno is encouraging residents to be proactive. He said, “From my experience it is important that landowners along or at the lower end of mountains and steep hillsides contact the Department of Land and Natural Resources to request a survey of any potential risks associated with boulders or large rocks which may appear to be a safety risk. Even if your hillside does not have any history of rockslides, it is important to know and understand your hillside or topography and take appropriate and timely action to avoid a potential catastrophe.”
In response to continuing concerns voiced by constituents in the area, Rep. Mizuno introduced HB454 – Relating to Land Liability to create strict liability for an owner of land with a 20% or more slope for damage or injury to down-slope property and persons from falling rocks, debris, and landslides originating from the owner’s property.
“Generally, insurance companies do not cover falling boulders, mudslides, or landslides, as this would be considered an act of God or an act of nature. A landowner would have to get comprehensive insurance as an optional coverage that protects against damage or injury from falling rocks, landslides, and other acts of nature,” Rep. Mizuno said.
Mizuno also issued a reminder to residents, “As a final resort, it would be prudent to contact your area lawmaker to request and urge the Governor to authorize state action for stabilizing or removing unstable rock and soil hazards. I’m calling attention to the urgency in preventing rockslides and we need to work with the DLNR and Governor to take a proactive approach in preventing similar occurrences throughout Hawaiʻi, especially during the extreme rain drenching our state.”