KAILUA-KONA — In his first trip to the neighbor islands since the tsunami ripped through Hawaii early Friday and caused damages estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars, Gov. Neil Abercrombie got some good news.

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Director William Aila Jr. informed the governor Tuesday that Kailua Pier was damaged by water pressure from beneath that caused cracks in the surface asphalt but that it was structurally sound and can begin accepting cruise ship visitors.

Abercrombie, Aila and Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi traveled together through parts of West Hawaii Tuesday. Abercrombie viewed the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel, which has had to shutter its beach-front restaurant but otherwise avoided catastrophic damage. He went to Alii Drive, where he checked out the pier and saw the Kona Inn closed for repairs to tsunami damage. He went to Kealakekua Bay and to Honokahua Marina.

Lastly, he visited the Hawaii County Council at the West Hawaii Civic Center. He and Aila testified at the Committee on Human Services, Social Services and Public Safety.

“We do appreciate the fact that you’ve been a great quarterback during this crisis and we thank you for that,” Council Chair Dominic Yagong told Abercrombie.

“It’s easy to quarterback when you’ve got a great team,” Abercrombie demurred.

Afterward, before he departed for Maui, the governor expressed optimism about repairs on the Big Island.

“Everything seems to have operated in a very fortunate way,” Abercrombie told Civil Beat in an interview in the Council chambers. “Down there at Manini Beach, the overwhelming majority of places are OK. There may be some wave action that took place, that kind of thing, but aside of the houses at the end of the spit there, everything seems to be fine.”

Manini Beach on Kealakekua Bay suffered some of the worst damage, with some houses knocked off their foundations and one washed entirely into the ocean.

Asked for the lesson he’s learned from the tsunami, Abercrombie said it shows that there are basic government functions that can’t be cut, no matter what the budgetary situation may be.

“We all have to work together. We all have to be prepared to contribute. And we all have to understand that in this time of economic stress which is bound to follow in the wake of the catastrophe in Japan, that it’s not going to be easy but it’s something that if we show the same kind of kokua for each other in the long run that we showed for each other in the wake of the tsunami warning, I think we’ll get through. I’m confident.”

Watch the videos:

Department of Land and Natural Resources Director William Aila Jr. talks about damages to the Kailua Pier on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie talks to Civil Beat after meeting with the Hawaii County Council Tuesday, March 15, 2011.

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