Tree stands tall in midst of debate on its fate

Scot Wineland, a licensed arborist from California, has a different opinion on a monkey-pod tree controversy at the Kealia River.

Some neighbors on Haua‘ala Road in Kapa‘a, say the two-and-a-half story tall tree is blocking the river, and debris build up may cause flooding.

Wineland thinks the problem may be a portion of the tree has fallen into the river, and that the whole tree does not need to be removed.

That assessment means the entire tree can be saved n certainly good news for island-based conservationists and environmentalists.

Wineland, a resident of Chico, Calif. who has visited Kaua‘i five times, said recently the trunk stood up at an angle over the river, and was attached to many trunks that were attached to the main tree trunk.

But due to erosion and the passage of time, that trunk fell into the water, he said.

He plans to state his case to Gov. Linda Lingle and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to have the trunk removed and cut up, thereby reducing the risk of flooding of nearby homes and pastures during heavy rains.

“The solutions are to get into the water and cut up the broken trunk or haul it out with a crane, put it on land and have it cut up,” said Wineland, who has been a licensed arborist for more than 20 years and has done consulting work in South America and in other parts of the world.

He said the debris also can be put on a flatbed and hauled away to be used as compost, once it’s ground up.

The amount to be ground up may be small but will be a lesson in recycling that will benefit the island, Wineland said.

Wineland said the dead and fallen trunk is about 35 feet long and broke away from a cluster of trunks that is attached to the main tree trunk, which measures at least 56 inches in diameter and is still upright.

“There are tons of small debris that have collected (under and around the trunk) over the years,” he said.

And the weight of the debris has kept the trunk from moving downstream and posing a threat to property, Wineland said.

Wineland said he became interested in the fallen trunk after reading about public concerns in The Garden Island.

Rosalina “Sweetie” Lopez said the tree or trunk fell into the river four years ago, and has been a source of tension because she worries the accumulated debris around the trunk could force the river water to rise and flood adjacent properties.

When she didn’t get a sufficient response from the DLNR to correct the problem, she contacted Jerome Freitas, otherwise known as “Da Shadow,” a government watchdog.

Lopez said she called on him because he has shown persistence in encouraging the state and county governments to make roads and beaches safe for use.

The DLNR says it has the same concerns, and has put out to bid a proposal to have the tree or trunk removed.

DLNR spokesman on Kaua’i, Tommy Oi, said the agency recently put out the contract, but nobody bid on the work.

DLNR’s policy would allow him to hire a contractor to do the work if no one bids on it.

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

If anything, efforts have to be made to keep the mother tree alive, Wineland said.

“The tree is at least 120 to 160 years old. It has value.”

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

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