New & Noteworthy: Mangroves, Koa, and the Irradiator on the Move

posted in: April 2010 | 0
Mangroves Get a Champion: Sydney Ross Singer, the hero of waiawi and defender of coqui, has found another invasive species to champion: the red mangrove. In February, Singer brought suit against the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the County of Hawai`i, the “U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife” [sic], the Big Island Invasive Species Committee, the Hawai`i Tourism Authority, and the private group Malama o Puna, over their collective efforts to eradicate mangroves from coastal areas, notably the Wai`opae Marine Life Conservation District.
At the heart of Singer’s lawsuit is the allegation that the use of pesticides in sensitive aquatic or marine systems violates clean-water regulations and was improperly exempted from environmental review.

Mangroves have no natural place in Hawai`i ecosystems, and they are threatening native coastal vegetation at many sites across the state. Attached to Singer’s complaint is a letter from the supervisor of the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, who supports manual rather than chemical eradication. At the time mangroves were eradicated from the national park, however, the manual labor was provided by state prisoners. Now that the state prison on the Big Island has closed, that option is no longer feasible.

Koa Lands to be Logged? A company based in Eugene, Oregon, has told its creditors in bankruptcy that it can log koa from land it owns near Hilo, Hawai`i, to pay them off. According to an article last month in the Eugene Register-Guard, John Musumeci, the executive vice president of Arlie & Co., told creditors the 6,000 acres of land held near Hilo is “one of the largest privately held forests of a commodity that is in high worldwide demand.”

Records at the Bureau of Conveyances do not show any land held by Arlie & Co. However, a company called Hawai`i Forest Products, LLC, does turn up as owner of two parcels totaling about 2,837 acres. In January, just prior to the bankruptcy filing, Hawai`i Forest Products merged with Arlie & Co. The principal of HFP was Suzanne Arlie, wife of Musumeci who is also president of Arlie & Co.

The larger of the two parcels is 2,812 acres, of which 2,553 are in the Conservation District. This parcel is west of Hilo and lies in the ahupua`a of Kukuau 2nd. The second parcel lies about four miles to the north, in the ahupua`a of Pu`ueo, and is just east of the eastern boundary of the Hilo Forest Reserve. Both lots were owned by the Mauna Kea Sugar Co., a subsidiary of the now-defunct C. Brewer & Co.

According to Douglas Schultz, attorney for unsecured creditors, Musemeci said the appraised value of one of the parcels is $270 million, adding that his company would be sending emissaries to Hawai`i later in March to look into harvesting some of the koa. “Now is the time for us to harvest it,” the Eugene Register-Guard quoted Musumeci as telling the meeting of creditors. “It would mean a tremendous amount of cash flow,” the paper quoted him as saying. “If we do this, it could generate several million a month in positive cash flow.” The bankruptcy filing shows Arlie & Co. has indebtedness totaling some $65 million.

The larger Hawai`i lot was purchased in 2002 for $1.5 million. The smaller lot was purchased the same year for $90,000. According to Hawai`i County property tax records, as of mid-March, real property taxes had not been paid on either parcel since the first half of 2009.

Musumeci lived in Hawai`i in the 1980s. Before leaving the islands, he gained some notoriety for having filed for bankruptcy, with debts totaling in excess of $1 billion. The bankruptcy case was transferred to California after Musumeci left the state.

A Moving Target? The company planning to build a food irradiator on a site at Honolulu International Airport is apparently willing now to consider alternative locations. Pa`ina Hawai`i, whose plans called for the plant to be up and running by February of 2006, has now informed the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board that it would like the board to order the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff to conduct “suitability studies” of a site on Ualena Street, near the airport, and another in Kunia.

The site near the airport – 2309 Ualena Street – is owned by the state Department of Transportation. No ownership information could be found for the second address, 92-1860 Kunia Road. However, it is the address from which the now defunct Del Monte pineapple plantation conducted much of its business.

Volume 20, Number 10 — April 2010


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