TRADEWINDS FOREST PRODUCTS
Eucalyptus veneer equipment was examined this month by Tradewinds Forest Products officials Gary Edwards and Jason Miller (both left, with backs to camera) during a trip to Curitiba, Brazil. Tradewinds plans to install similar equipment at Ookala on the Big Island.
Residents of town near Hilo oppose plan to build veneer mill
Concerns about noise can be resolved, the company insists
HILO » Oregon-based Tradewinds Forest Products will be ready by the beginning of next year to begin building a $40 million mill north of Hilo to turn eucalyptus trees into veneer, the thin sheets of wood that make up plywood, said company President Don Bryan.
In the small community of Ookala, 30 miles north of Hilo, the majority of the residents near the intended mill site hope it will not happen.
According to a survey conducted by Ookala resident Dr. Tawn Keeney, 79 residents are against the mill, 18 are for it and 29 do not know.
The biggest worry is noise.
In a meeting with residents this evening, Bryan hopes to convince them that noise and other problems can be solved.
State regulations permit up to 70 decibels -- about as loud as freeway traffic -- at Tradewinds' property line. That is just 200 feet from some of the homes.
Bryan says the actual noise will be much quieter.
Instead of the diesel-powered loaders used to lift logs in Oregon, the Tradewinds mill will use quiet electric cranes.
The mill building will be enclosed on three sides, with the open side facing a gully and the sea.
The "hog" that will smash green waste from around the isle into fuel for the mill's power plant will be located at a different site, where the noise will not be heard. Smashing the green waste should also help kill any hitchhiking coqui frogs.
A resident who owns an access road will refuse to allow Tradewinds to use it, said opponent Scott Enright. Tradewinds will simply use an alternate road, Bryan said. The number of truck trips per day will be 27, not the wildly higher estimate made by an opponent, he said.
It is not clear whether Gov. Linda Lingle will sign a bill providing special-purpose bond money of up to $25 million, Enright said. Bryan said the most the company will actually get from the bonds is about $10 million, and he has separate backing for the rest.
No environmental study is needed because the site is still zoned industrial from the period to 1987 when it housed a sugar mill, the county Planning Department said.
The mill will make only veneer to be shipped elsewhere, not finished plywood, so there will be no chemicals to deal with, Bryan said.
People bought homes in Ookala because it is peaceful, said Susie Collins, Enright's wife. "They're paying for a rural quiet area," she said. In May, Bryan told residents, "There will be some noise."