by the Hawaiian Shores Community Association
Testimony to the Energy and Environment Committee of the Hawaii State Senate
Dear Senator Gabbard, Chair; Senator Ruderman, Vice Chair; and Committee Members
This testimony is the result of observing the growth of the noxious weed tree Albizia on the Big Island for the past 30 years; along with extensive research and discussion with agencies and horticulture/plant organizations. As a homeowners association that operates a private wellhead/water distribution system for its nearly 1300 private lots, the economic costs of the Stale’s policy of turning a blind eye to this extremely aggressive pest is hitting everyone in their pocketbooks!
Let’s share the facts first:
- According to the U.S. Forest Service, Albizia is the fastest growing tree in the world. In Hawaii it has been observed to grow 16′ a year reaching heights well over 120′ in less than 10 years.
- According to an employee who worked on the project, Department of Transportation (DOT) spent $1 MILLION attempting to control Albizia along just one (1) mile of Kuhio Highway on Kauai a couple years ago. Since they didn’t follow protocols to remove Albizia successfully, DOT will double back this year and anticipates spending close to $2 MILLION to repeat the exercise – hopefully using proper eradication methods!
- The tree is easily controlled if eradicated in a proper manner which involves either girdling the trunks or making wedge cuts every 6 inches around the circumference of the tree trunk and injecting a very small amount of a non-toxic herbicide – Milestone Plus.
- Albizia spreads like wildfire from its extensive lateral root system such that if you chain saw down a large tree, you will have an Albizia forest sprout from the lateral root system (the drip line of the tree’s canopy) which can encompass up to an acre in the case of a very large tree. It also spreads annually when it drops its seed.
- The tree is not a desirable species for biomass due to its highly invasive reproduction from seed and/or sprouts from the root system. There are many far better plants for biomass production in Hawaii that are not highly invasive and have higher BTU content.
- The tree does not have economic value for wood working or canoe building. Less than 10% of a growth of long standing Albizia may be considered useful for these purposes.
- The root tips of the Falcataria moluccana, aka Albizia, exude a natural selective herbicide that kills off other plant species resulting in Albizia forests forming. This chemical is being studied for production as a commercial herbicide.
- The roots are very strong. The roots contort and invade underground utility conduit and water pipes causing expensive underground repairs and potentially imparting undesirable chemicals and contamination into human drinking water systems. Department of Health (DOH) does not currently require testing for this specific chemical in public and private water systems in Hawaii, although it should be studied by DOH to determine if testing is needed.
- It has spread as an alien species throughout the Pacific and is rated by the U.S. Forest Service as a HIGH RISK tree in tropical environments. Although a leguminous tree, nitrogen fixing plants are not part of tropical forests and do not enhance our native soils.
- In Hawaii, the refusal of the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to place this tree on the noxious plant list, even though it was requested to do so by the Big Island Invasive Species Committee two years ago, shows the power of large land owners to protect their own interests by avoiding the cost of controlling Albizia on large tracts of land in Kauai, Maui, and Big Island. Meantime, the economic cost to the citizens of this State is well into the MILLIONS of DOLLARS. The names of specific large land owners who have been blocking this action are known, but not provided in this public testimony out of respect for the political process.
- The Landscape Industry Council of Hawaii refers to Albizia as a “sudden limb drop” tree. Albizia growing close to roadways and residential properties pose an extreme threat to humans and property.
Our homeowner association is currently assessing its water wellhead and distribution system, which consists of -3 miles of a main line and 11 miles of lateral lines, for leaks caused by Albizia root invasion. We have uncovered an area of about 1 mile of underground water pipes where roots from Albizia have either restricted flow or created holes in the pipes. The roots then fill the holes blocking flow rates and we don’t know the impact on water quality. As a small private water system, we cannot afford the sophisticated tests required to identify contaminants assocated with chemicals exuded by Albizia roots.
The State must step up to the plate, admit this is a noxious weed tree (as if everyone living in the District of Puna doesn’t already know this!) and develop a control program – period! The economic costs to utility rate payers from overhead and underground Albizia threats; the economic cost to taxpayers from Albizia roots undermining State and County roads along with fallen limbs and trees obstructing and hitting motorists; the loss to private property when Albizia falls on homes, fences and other private property are reasons enough to control this undesirable invasive tree. The fact thaI it poses a threat to human health and safety is unquestionable.
Home and property values are being negatively impacted by the close proximity of uncontrolled Albizia growth. We can’t believe the legislature has ignored this HUGE problem as long as they have and we are grateful to Senator Ruderman for proposing this much needed legislation.
STOP THE SPREAD OF ALBIZIA NOW!!!!!
Please support these Resolutions as a first step to control of this noxious weed tree.
David Johnson, Vice President, Board of Directors
On behalf of the Hawaiian Shores Community Association