Saturday, June 9, 2001

State OKs license
for timber harvest

A mainland company wants to
cut down 500 acres a year for a
mill on the Big Island

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> The Big Island has moved a step closer to having a plywood industry, but the company planning it says it might take as much as three years of preparation before a plywood mill can be built.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources yesterday granted a license for Tradewinds Forest Products to harvest non-native timber on about 9,000 acres out of about 12,000 comprising the Waiakea Timber Management Area south of Hilo.The firm would harvest 500 acres per year.

That timber would be combined with Hamakua Coast timber to provide raw materials for a $25 million mill on the coast.

Tradewinds, based in Oregon and Washington State, has been working for three years to get the license.

The next 18 months to three years will be spent arranging financing, engineering, and federal, state and county permits, said Don Bryan, a partner in the venture with Gordon Boyd.

The Land Board reached its decision after hearing testimony for eight hours without a lunch break.

The testimony was mixed.

Hunter Steve Araujo supported the project although it means cutting forests used by pig hunters.

"We love our forest. We don't want to see it cut. But we also believe in balance," he said.

County Councilwoman Julie Jacobson opposed granting the license, saying cutting the forest would increase the danger of flooding.

State Division of Forestry and Wildlife head Michael Buck suggested there was no danger of that because the ground is so porous that rain sinks immediately into the ground even during a downpour.

Land Board member Kathryn Inouye summarized the testimony, saying, "I'm trying to determine what is fact and what is fear and what is fiction."

Like others, Karen Blue, representing Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, called for a detailed environmental study. The board compromised by requiring a general report from the company before it builds the mill.

A point left unresolved was the potholed condition of the Stainback Highway, which gives access to the timber.

Tradewinds agreed to pay $1 per ton of timber for road maintenance after the state improves the road. But it has no assurance that the Department of Transportation will make improvements.

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