Officials with the US Forest Service, Hawaiian Electric Light Company as well as Mayor Billy Kenoi and his cabinet, and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and state Sen. Russell Ruderman and the Invasive Species Council met on Tuesday to talk about the need to tackle the Albizia tree problem.
"These trees are really a menace and we have to work together to get rid of them over time. It is expensive and people need to understand that government is not going to be able to get rid of every Albizia across the state. But we can start with those trees and those spans of trees that are causing the most harm to the electricity infrastructure," said Schatz.
Schatz said there was agreement to draft a mitigation plan and to split the costs.
But, the concern for albizias is growing across the state.
You don’t have to drive far along Oahu's major arteries to see where albizias have taken hold.
Some of the trees are so tall they could easily block all lanes of traffic if they fell.
You see them along the Likelike Highway, Pali Tunnel and along the H-2 Freeway.
It is what Rep. Ryan Yamane sees every day when he drives into town from his district in Mililani.
"They pose a potential problem to motorists statewide. They grow very fast and their branches break during winds and none high winds and they pose a danger to many motorists," said Yamane.
About seven years ago, one fell damaging emergency phones on the H-2 Freeway.
It was at that point that transportation officials began taking a closer look at the threat and the need to taking down the trees to protect the public.
But some of the Albizias are on private property, not on state land.
"Some are further back from the right of way. It’s hard to get to, but we would take a look at it if we feel if there was a potential problem," said State Transportation Deputy Director, Jadine Urasaki.
Rep. Yamane thinks it would help if the federal government were willing to expanding highway buffer zones and easements.
"One of the things that has been a challenge is how far do we cut back the easement and what point do we cut back the trees when they pose a potential for harm regarding wind safety," said Yamane.
Big Island lawmaker Russell Ruderman flagged the threat of the trees along the roadways in Hilo and Puna last year.
But, it took Iselle to show what he was talking about.
"Approximately 80 to 90 percent of the lingering damage from the storm Iselle is from Albizias . The power lines that are down and the roads that are blocked are due to Albizias. So, now that the problem has been highlighted, I think now there will be a concerted effort at Albizia control," Rudeman said.
The Outdoor Circle supports the idea of the right tree in the right place and can’t argue against health and safety.
"From the Outdoor Circle's perspective it’s not so much as having a bad tree list as a good tree list and we recognize that having a tree that is native and non-invasive, and that is what we have supported in recent years." said executive director Marti Townsend.
Interestingly, Townsend says there are five Albizia trees that have been deemed exceptional. She said they are all on military bases.