HDOT NEWS RELEASE: Public urged not to take wood from Daniel K. Inouye Highway project site to prevent spreading fungus

Posted on Apr 21, 2016 in Latest News

HILO — The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) and Federal Highway Administration, Central Federal Lands Highway Division (FHWA-CFLHD) are completing the final phase of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (formerly known as Saddle Road) improvement project. Construction has commenced for the realignment of the roadway from milepost 5.6 to milepost 11.7 west of Hilo. The contractor has performed initial site preparation work and vegetation clearing operations are now underway.

Special precautions are being taken to minimize the risk of transmission of a fungus attributed to Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death. Provisions for tree removal, handling, and the disposition of cut timber have been developed for the project in coordination with technical experts from the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, USDA Agricultural Research Service, and the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Efforts to minimize the risk of transmission include sanitation of equipment and tools when leaving the project site, and a key component of containing ʻōhiʻa and other vegetative matter within the project area. Similar efforts are in effect to prevent the introduction of the fungus from other locations on the island that could be transmitted by vehicles and equipment that are not thoroughly sanitized.

The agencies are asking for the public’s help. Trees have been cut and stockpiled for processing within the project site. Several individuals have made inquiries or requests to take vegetation from the project site, and there have been instances observed of individuals hauling timber from the work area. We ask the public to please refrain from leaving the limits of the existing Saddle Road and removing any vegetation from the project site.

According to experts, Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death is attributed to a fungus (Ceratocystis fimbriata) that has been spreading rapidly across the island. Aerial surveys taken in January show the disease has affected more than 34,000 acres on the Big Island. The fungus lives inside ʻōhiʻa trees and can be transported with wood and untreated wood products to uninfected areas on the island. While extensive research efforts are occurring, experts agree that the most immediate action to prevent the acceleration of the fungus spread is to restrict movement of infected ʻōhiʻa trees. In fact, there is a new quarantine rule that prevents the interisland movement of all ʻōhiʻa plant or plant parts and soil, except by permit issued by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

Please help us protect our native forests and kindly leave all plants in the project area. You may visit www.rapidohiadeath.org for additional information on the disease.

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Shelly Kunishige
Department of Transportation
Office: (808) 587-2161
E-mail: shelly.y.kunishige@hawaii.gov