Millions spent trimming Albizia trees for hurricane season

Local News

With an active hurricane season expected for Hawaii, millions of dollars are being spent in preparation — and that’s just the amount being shelled out to trim trees.

Last year, Tropical Storm Iselle hit the Big Island and brought down many Albizia trees, which knocked out power lines and blocked roads.

There are countless Albizia trees at Lyon Arboretum and with it, some close calls.

“Large branches have come down very close to people who are walking through the grounds and in some cases, very nearly hit them,” said Carl Evensen, Lyon Arboretum’s interim director.

That’s why officials are ramping up efforts and money to deal with this problem.

Workers just removed 15 Albizias at the arboretum in Manoa, along with native and endangered plants around them. That removal cost a little more than $900,000.

Officials say they plan to remove nine more trees, especially as Hawaii enters hurricane season.

“That is a big concern always. When the winds pick up, we generally have to close down the arboretum,” Evensen said.

Experts say it isn’t easy getting rid of Albizia trees and it isn’t very cheap, but it’s a must during hurricane season.

“They’re usually full of water because they absorb a lot of water, so the weight of the water and the wood, and then when winds come up, healthy branches with no decay will just snap and break,” said arborist Steve Nimz.

The Albizia tree is the fastest growing tree in the world, but its branches are weak, posing a big danger to those around it.

So far this year, Hawaii Electric Light Company has spent $2 million on tree trimming on the Big Island, in the Puna, North Hilo and Hamakua Coast areas.

Last year, the Department of Transportation removed more than 10,000 trees around major freeways and highways including the H-3, H-2 and Likelike at a cost of more than a million dollars.

This past legislative session, lawmakers allocated up to $1.5 million so the DOT can deal with more trees, if they can find a matching contributor.

“They are tricky and they are unpredictable, even for qualified arborists who know what they’re doing,” Nimz said.

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