Problem tree set to come down

Rosalina “Sweetie” Lopez says her repeated requests to the state government to remove a two-story-tall monkeypod tree from the Kealia River that could imperil homes has produced only friendly, hollow responses.

“This tree has been in the water four years, and when I call, they tell me ‘no worries, it is out for bid,’” she said this week.

If nothing is done, debris that continues to accumulate around the tree could create flooding in the next storm and threaten her home, and the homes of neighbors on Haua‘ala Road in Kapa‘a, she said.

Lopez recently summoned “Da Shadow” because she has heard that where others merely complain to government officials, Jerome Freitas gets government to act due to his persistence.

“When I saw all this rubbish in the river, I called Jerome,” she said.

His intervention may not be needed though.

Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman on Kaua’i, Tommy Oi, said the machinery of government may move slowly at times, but it moves.

“We put out a contract about three weeks ago to remove it,” Oi said. “We put it out to bid and nobody bid on it.”

In such instances, DLNR’s policy would allow him to hire a contractor to do the work.

But if the quote is deemed too high, the work will go out to bid again, Oi said.

Oi said he too would like to see the work done as quickly as possible. “I can understand their concern,” he said.

Lopez said she became alarmed earlier this year when river water washed over the road and into pastures.

“It could threaten homes the next time,” she said. “That is what we are trying to prevent here.”

Lopez said she initially called Kaua‘i County officials to have the tree removed, but was referred to the DLNR.

“Every year I called them up and nothing happens,” she

said.

Lopez, who has lived on the water’s edge for 35 years, says the river’s slow-moving water during spring and summer is calming.

But the river can easily become a threat to life and property during winter.

During torrential rainfall in 1990, she had to evacuate her family as the rising waters of the river threatened her home. Her home was spared when the water subsided.

Lopez said she becomes almost a fixture on the river’s edge when the rainy season starts.

“I am like the civil defense during the rainy season,” Lopez said. “I know how far the river water goes in the back by my house.”

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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