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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 8, 2003

Army joins Lake Wilson weed battle

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

The state is getting help from Army and Army National Guard soldiers in the war against Salvinia molesta, the insidious weed that has overrun Lake Wilson.

The ongoing task of clearing Lake Wilson of Salvinia molesta, the weed that has taken over the lake and is threatening its fish, is getting a boost, as Army engineers and National Guard soldiers prepare to join the effort.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Engineers attached to the 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Schofield Barracks were setting up equipment at the lake yesterday, said Bob Warner, an Army spokesman.

"This will be an ongoing effort," Warner said. "We're not out there for a one-day show. We'll be there for ... as long as we possibly can," he said. "We live here, we drink the water. We are concerned about the environment and want to be good stewards, just like everyone else."

The first two or three days, 25 soldiers of the 84th Engineer Battalion will work one eight-hour shift per day, he said. By the end of the week, soldiers will work two eight-hour shifts per day, with about 25 soldiers per shift.They will be using bulldozers, military rafts with outboard motors and Bobcat excavators.

The Army National Guard will provide a dozen soldiers each weekend, beginning today, unless and until they are called elsewhere, said Maj. Chuck Anthony, a spokesman for the Hawai'i National Guard.

Anthony said the troops will be using scoop loaders and 5-ton dump trucks.

Money allocated for state activation of the Guard, often used for natural disasters or riot control, will be used to pay for the Guard soldiers, Anthony said.

Randy Honebrink of the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resource said state and city crews, who have worked on the project since Feb. 18, had cleared 6,024 cubic yards of the weed out of the lake by the end of the day Thursday.

More than 160 acres of salvinia, which is spread over 270 acres of the 300-acre lake, has been sprayed with herbicide, he said, and the spraying is making the job easier.

The spray takes about a week to kill off the salvinia, he said, but the herbicide does stop the photosynthesis process almost immediately, and stops the weed from spreading.

The lake is shaped like a peace sign, and city and state workers have been clearing spots in each of the two fingers, Honebrink said. Some of those spots remain clear now that the herbicide is controlling growth, but the area nearest the dam and the Kemo'o By The Lake condominiums on Wilikina Drive, the fist portion of the peace sign, remains thickly covered.

The military help should make a big difference, Honebrink said.

"From what I've seen their method of removal is more efficient than the booms we're using," Honebrink said.

The state and city each committed $500,000 to fight the infestation. More than two-thirds of a $150,000 federal grant had been spent by early this week, and officials are searching for alternative sources of money as the cleanup progresses.