No plan to snip invasive plants at Puuloa Road


POSTED: Monday, March 09, 2009

Question: In your Feb. 8 column, you wrote that the state Department of Transportation did consider using the “;ice plant”; a reader suggested planting along the bare areas of the highways but that officials “;were able to learn from the experiences of the California Department of Transportation, which had used the succulent along its roadsides.”; It turns out the plant is highly invasive, and it cost millions of dollars to remove it. Now it looks like the ice plant is being planted along the Ewa side of Puuloa Road as part of the parking area landscaping. Is this a mistake?

Answer: Good catch.

It's a mistake if you consider all that's known about the plant now.

However, we're told the Puuloa Road project was one of several that were designed before the problems with the plant were known and before the Landscape Industry Council of Hawaii began work on a Statewide Noxious Invasive Plant list and guidelines.

The Department of Transportation is in a transition period, with the local landscape industry's three-year effort to establish the guidelines just coming to fruition and with the department's Statewide Noxious Invasive Plant Program beginning to be developed, said spokeswoman Tammy Mori.

The department is actually “;ahead of the curve,”; she said, and will be the first state agency to adopt the lists and guidelines for more than 130 invasive plants.

Unfortunately, the ice plant you saw is apparently staying, at least for now.

That's because the Puuloa Road project was designed in 2004, when specifics of the plantings and the funding were laid out for the contractor, Mori said.

At this point the ice plant will not be removed and replaced at the Puuloa Road site because that would entail a change order and more money, she said.

However, she said the DOT is “;actively looking into securing funding and issuing change orders”; on the projects that have had the ice plant included in their design.

“;Our primary focus is on the projects we have now and those in our future, where we can implement our new Statewide Noxious Invasive Plant lists and guidelines,”; Mori said.

Meanwhile, she explained that the Landscape Industry Council of Hawaii plans this month to publish its invasive species list, which “;balances the risk of the plant versus the benefit.”;

Christopher Dacus, a landscape architect with the DOT's Highways Division, led the Council and spearheaded the efforts, Mori said.

Additionally, the department has awarded a contract to SWCA Environmental Consultants to develop the DOT's Statewide Noxious Invasive Plant Program.

The three-year pilot program aims to develop a comprehensive statewide program on Oahu to control noxious and invasive plant species along Hawaii's state roads; protect conservation, scenic and native habitat areas; and spur early detection of high-priority invasive species.