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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 16, 2003

Kailua gears up to fight salvinia

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KAILUA — Fearing a situation like Lake Wilson where a noxious plant threatens to render that body of water lifeless, Kailua residents will try to organize a cleanup of the Salvinia molesta at Kawainui Marsh rather than wait for the state to act.

Windward organizations, state officials and residents plan to meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Kailua District Park to discuss the problem and evaluate the best ways to get rid of the invasive plant that has taken over freshwater channels along Kapa'a Quarry Road, said Kathy Bryant-Hunter, Kailua Neighborhood Board chairwoman.

The Kailua community doesn't want to wait because the plant is known to double in volume in a week under favorable conditions, Bryant-Hunter said.

"The concern is some of those channels go straight into the middle of the marsh," she said. "The farther inland it goes, the more difficult it is to get out, because it's nearly inaccessible."

Under a directive from Gov. Linda Lingle to make the fight against salvinia a priority, the state is gearing up to remove salvinia from Lake Wilson, which resembles a meadow now that it is almost completely covered by the weed. If left unchecked, the weed could deplete the lake of oxygen by summer, resulting in a massive fish kill that could leave 500 tons of fish rotting.

The state Division of Aquatic Resources devised an interagency, intergovernmental plan at a meeting this month. The plan calls for using equipment to remove the weed and transport it to an open field.

Peter Young, director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, has said that anything his aquatic division learns about removal of the weed would be applied to problem areas in Kailua, where the plant has been growing in the marsh for a year and Ka'elepulu Pond in Enchanted Lake for four years.

But it was clear at the DLNR meeting that the department will focus on the Lake Wilson problem, said Bryant-Hunter, who attended the meeting.

She and Sen. Bob Hogue, R-24th (Kailua, Kane'ohe), want all interested parties to join the anti-salvinia effort in Kailua. The potential for participation is huge, as the marsh is surrounded by schools that send students there for field classes, as well as churches and homes. Groups such as Kawai Nui Heritage Foundation, 'Ahahui Malama i ka Lokahi and the Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club are actively involved in marsh preservation and cultural education.

Shannon Wood, with the Windward Ahupua'a Alliance, said her organization was planning a cleanup in the marsh next month and it would make sense for it to focus on salvinia. She agreed to help and has solicited help from heavy equipment operators.

Much will depend on how the cleanup is organized, but Wood said she would like it to be educational as well as practical.

"I think we should start off the day with historical and cultural presentations so that the people who are coming there understand that it's not just about grubbing and pulling out noxious weeds," she said. "It's a stewardship issue."

The marsh is about 800 acres and is covered with invasive plants. Only about 10 acres of open waterways remain, including along the edges, where there are canals, and the interior, where access is difficult.

Chuck Burrows, who has conducted cleanups, educational tours and restoration projects in the marsh for years, said he would like the city or state to develop the plan for a cleanup like the state is doing for Lake Wilson.

Heavy equipment could be used initially, then the volunteers should go in guided by protocol about how to collect and dispose of the weed and what to wear.

Hogue said he is exploring other options, including the possibility of introducing brackish or salt water into the marsh. Salvinia cannot survive in salt water.

Hogue also wants DLNR to look into what is happening at Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden in Kane'ohe, where salvinia was discovered in a stream below the park and where another aquarium plant is growing in the park's reservoir.

The state must decide on a long-term solution such as introducing the salvinia weevil, but that has had negative responses, Hogue said. People warn against a repeat of the proliferation of mongooses since that animal was introduced to Hawai'i in the 1860s.

Mongoose were intended to control rats, but rats are nocturnal and mongooses sleep at night. With no natural enemies, the mongoose proliferated, contributing to the demise of native birds. And the rats are still around.

"A (determination) has to be made that the weevil will not munch on anything but salvinia and when the salvinia is gone, the weevil will die," Hogue said.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.