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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 22, 2003

Sale, transport of weed out of state's control

 •  Lake Wilson cleanup to pause

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

Aquarium and nursery retailers across the state continue to grow and sell the aggressive alien weed Salvinia molesta, even as the state fights an uphill battle to destroy the aquatic plant in Lake Wilson and other freshwater locations statewide.

The state Department of Agriculture lacks the authority to ban the sale and movement of the plant because it was originally brought into the state legally, said information officer Janelle Saneishi.

"We are looking into other areas where we can restrict the movement intrastate, but it's going to be really difficult to make this an illegal plant," Saneishi said. "Our authority is always about importing."

Federal regulations, which recognize salvinia as a major problem across the country, now ban its interstate transport.

Saneishi said the Agriculture Department has started the process to add the plant to the state's list of noxious plants, where it would join miconia, fountain grass, kudzu, gorse and almost 70 other plants.

The noxious-weed list identifies plants considered potentially dangerous for Hawai'i's environment, but by itself does not provide a means to prevent their sale and transport, Saneishi said.

Kailua resident Terry Olival recalls that her daughter, Tracy, first spotted salvinia growing in Enchanted Lake when she was feeding water birds four years ago. Olival said her daughter repeatedly called government officials to alert them to the troublemaking plant.

Olival said she is amazed that there is still no legal means to prevent its spread.

"It was four years ago, and they still can't stop this from happening," she said.

Some retailers recognize the threat and are preparing to destroy their stocks.

"We had a meeting last week. We're going to get rid of it, and we're advising all of our clients to get rid of it," said Lelan Nishek, owner of Kaua'i Nursery and Landscaping. His firm's retail center had salvinia plants drifting in an ornamental pond.

While most of the recent news about salvinia has focused on the state's largest infestation, in Lake Wilson, the plant is becoming a pest in many areas.

City officials removed an infestation a few months ago from a tributary leading from the lake at Ho'omaluhia Park. Windward residents are concerned with the growing infestation at Kawainui Marsh, which the state hopes to control with herbicide spraying. The state Division of Aquatic Resources has dispatched crews to try to control the weed in Waiakea Pond in Hilo and in the Hule'ia area of Kaua'i.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.