Rapid Ohia Death Kills Forest Giant and Confirms Spread to Hamakua

Twin Tests Verify Fungal Disease Killed Centuries Old Tree

From the road, in the Laupahoehoe Section of the Hilo Forest Reserve, Steve Bergfeld of the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources spots the enormous, towering, ōhiʻa tree; its thick branches now completely without leaves.  The Hawai’i Island Branch Manager for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife wants to get a close-up look at the tree, after a technician first spotted it and took samples a week ago.  Two laboratory tests have confirmed that this very old tree was killed by the fast-moving fungal infection known as Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.

ohia-death2Across Hawai’i Island, the disease is killing trees and devastating tens of thousands of acres of native forest. First reported in the Puna District in 2010, the latest aerial surveys show that the fungus has impacted nearly 50,000 acres of forest here.

Named for the rapidity in which it kills infected trees, the loss of the 100-130 foot tall ōhiʻa in the Laupahoehoe forest, and perhaps others around it, shows the disease has spread to the island’s eastern side, along the Hamakua Coast.  Bergfeld observed, “It’s devastating to look at the forest and the damage Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death is doing to our ecosystem and our watersheds. That tree is a giant in the forest. It also supports a lot of other plant life and bird life. It was an important part of our ecosystem. These trees have been here for hundreds of years and to see them go down to a disease like this is really heartbreaking.”

ohia-death1ʻŌhiʻa trees are culturally significant and their flowers are prized for lei making. Foresters consider ōhiʻa the most important species for protecting the state’s forested watersheds for its dense canopy, where virtually all domestic water supplies originate.

That’s why a strong collaboration between state and federal government agencies and conservation organizations is actively researching the cause of the disease, potential treatments, and the establishment of quarantines and protocols to prevent further spread.

ohia-death3The identification of this diseased tree is the latest example of this cooperative effort.  The tree was spotted by a technician from the U.S. Forest Service’s Institute of Pacific Island Forestry, who collected the wood samples for lab testing.  Verification of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, as the trees cause of death, was done by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo.

An entomologist from the University of Hawai’i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Extension Service also collected samples for research that suggests beetles are a primary cause for the spread of the fungus.

ohia-deathBergfeld explains the next steps involving experts from the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death working group. “We’ll put everyone’s heads together and see what the best management strategy will be for this particular tree.  I assume, more than likely, we’ll fell the tree to get it out of the forest and cover it with tarps to keep insects from putting out frass (the powdery refuse or fragile perforated wood produced by the activity of boring insects), into the air,” he said.

Experts are very concerned that with the confirmation of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death in this tree, the disease has spread to a previously unaffected area farther up the Hamakua Coast: a forest already impacted by a 2013-2014 outbreak of the Koa looper, a native insect that defoliates entire koa trees during rare, unexplained outbreaks.
Governor David Ige, lead scientists, and policy makers engaged in the fight against Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, will gather for the first-ever summit on the disease at the State Capitol on

Wednesday, November 30, 2016.  The event is open to the public and is scheduled from

9 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the Capitol Auditorium.  More information on this to follow.

Car Flips Off Bridge on Highway 19

A car flipped off a bridge at the 6 mile marker of Highway 19 in and caused the closure of of Hamakua bound traffic around 12:00 this afternoon.

The driver of the vehicle was still inside and was later helped out of the car by a bystander.

This is the only information I have received on the accident so far:

Car Flip


Big Island Police Renewing Request for Information on Wanted Hāmākua Man

Hawaiʻi Island police are renewing their request for information about a 49-year-old Hāmākua man wanted on warrants.

Adrien Haena Kalani

Adrien Haena Kalani

Adrien Haena Kalani of Āhualoa is wanted for contempt of court, promoting a dangerous drug and possessing drug paraphernalia. He is also wanted for questioning in connection with an assault and an auto theft.

He is described as approximately 6-foot-2, 300 pounds with short black-and-gray hair and brown eyes.

Police caution the public not contact or approach him. Instead, anyone who knows his whereabouts is asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.


Big Island Police to Hold Community Meeting in Honoka’a Next Week

The Hawaiʻi Police Department will hold a community meeting on Tuesday, April 16, from noon to 2 p.m. in the conference room at the North Hawaiʻi Education and Research Center in Honokaʻa.

The purpose of the meeting is to allow the public to meet the Police Department’s command staff and to discuss police-related concerns with the police chief and commanders who oversee police operations in the Hāmākua District.

The Hāmākua event continues district community meetings, which are rotated throughout the eight police districts on the Big Island. To aid police commanders in focusing on specific community concerns, they ask that participation in this meeting be limited to persons who live or work in the Hāmākua District.

Those interested in participating but unable to attend may e-mail their concerns or comments to copsysop@hawaiipolice.com.

For more information, you may call Captain Richard Miyamoto at 775-7533.


Big Island Police Investigating Theft of John Deere Front End Loader

Hawaiʻi Island police are investigating the theft of a tractor over the past weekend along the Hāmākua Coast.

HPDBadgeSometime between 4:30 p.m. Friday (March 22) and 8:20 a.m. Monday (March 25), a green John Deere front end loader was removed from property just mauka of the 20-mile marker on Route 19 in Ninole. The machine was equipped with a yellow Gearmore grass cutter. The items were valued at $39,000.

Anyone with information on the location of the equipment or with any other information about this case is asked to call Officer Agitau Faanunu at 962-2120.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.


Big Island Police Searching for Missing Hāmākua Woman

Hawaiʻi Island police are asking for the public’s help in locating a missing 57-year-old Hāmākua woman.
Kelie Sensano

Kelie Sensano

Kelie Ann Feliciano Sensano, also known as Kelie Sensano, is described as Caucasian, about 5-foot-5, 150 pounds with straight brown neck-length hair and green eyes.

She was last seen in Pāpaʻaloa on Saturday (February 23) at about 11 a.m. She was wearing blue jeans, a white tank top and black leather shoes.

Her family and friends are concerned about her safety and well being.

Police ask anyone with information on this case or who may know her whereabouts to call Detective Joel Field at 961-2381 or email him at jfield@co.hawaii.hi.us

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential. – See more at: https://local.nixle.com/alert/4965531/#sthash.zajWee14.dpuf


Volunteers Who Found Love in the Peace Corps and Settled in Hamakua to be Honored at Peace Day Parade

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV’s) make up a very special demographic along the Big Island’s Hamakua Coast.  A recent Sunday afternoon “photo op” brought together seven couples from the area, all of whom met and married during, or as a result of, their service in Peace Corps.  They, along with numerous other RPCV’s, will be special honorees in Honokaa’s Peace Day Parade on Sunday, September 18, in celebration of Peace Day and the Peace Corps’ 50th Anniversary this year.

Peace Corps Volunteers

Pictured, L to R. Front row: Joe and Karen Clarkson (Pa`auilo Mauka); Patricia Andrade Stout and Andrew Stout (Ahualoa). Second Row: Jodean and Romel DelaCruz (Ahualoa). Third row: Steve and Jacinta Hanks (Pa`auilo Mauka), Gloria and David Myklebust (Pa'auilo Mauka). Fourth row: Bill Lichter (Kapulena). Not shown, Jane Lichter and Walter Mosch & Janet Goh Mosch (Pa'auilo Mauka). Photo by Sarah Anderson

Romel Delacruz, retired Executive Director of Hale Ho’ola and Jodean Delacruz, former principal of Honokaa High School, met on assignment in the Philippines in the 1960’s.

About the same time, David and Gloria Myklebust, both educators, met in New York City before their service in Cameroon, on Africa’s central western coast.  They’ve been told they are the first couple to be given permission to marry while serving in the Peace Corps.

Walter Mosch met future wife Janet Goh in graduate school in international studies at Columbia University, not long after Walter’s service in Cameroon, 20 years after the Myklebust’s (who coincidentally live next door).

Steve and Jacinta Hanks fell in love in Papua New Guinea during Steve’s service in the 1990’s.  They both teach at Honokaa High School, and have devoted countless hours to helping the people of Jacinta’s homeland, the Carteret Islands.

Other Hamakua residents with ties to the Peace Corps include Bill and Jane Lichter (Saipan), Joe and Karen Clarkson (Marshall Islands), Andrew and Patricia Andrade Stout (Ecuador), Theresa Lee and Stephen Oldfather.

What makes Hamakua such a “peace-full” community?  Hard to say.  The rural lifestyle of the former sugar cane plantation town is a factor; the island’s tolerance for families of mixed races may be another, as well as work opportunity at Honokaa High School, good weather for growing things, and a strong sense of place.

Romel Delacruz estimates that of the 200,000 RPCV’s since the Peace Corps’ inception in 1961, 200 live in Hawaii.  Some RPCV’s trained in Waipio Valley, where a full-scale hamlet was constructed to replicate a Southeast Asian village.

In celebration of the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary, an island-wide reunion is planned for November 14-21, with events in Kona, Hilo and Waipio Valley.  For more information, visit www.rpcvhi.org.

The 5th Annual Parade & Festival for the United Nations International Day of Peace steps off at 11 a.m. from Honokaa High School, and proceeds down Mamane Street.  With Taiko drums, marching bands, Bon Dance, belly dancers, jazz, rock & roll, hula and more, the Peace Day Parade is a “moving stage” of music, dance and entertainment with a message.  Concurrently, a Peace Day Festival takes place at the Honokaa Sports Complex from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with great local and ethnic foods, artists and crafters, live entertainment and a large community Bon Dance for everyone to join.

The 5th Annual Parade & Festival for the United Nations International Day of Peace are presented by the Peace Committee of the Honokaa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in cooperation with the United Nations and numerous community organizations. Major financial support has been provided by the County of Hawaii Department of Research and Development (Tourism Division) CPEP and the Social Concerns Committee of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii.

For more information visit www.PeaceDayParade.org or email info@peacedayparade.org

Tonight: Educational & Informational Meeting on Eucalyptus Plantations in Hamakua


Eucalyptus Plantations in Hamakua: Educational & Informational Community Gathering

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Laupahoehoe School Cafeteria
Doors open 6:00pm
Presentation begins 6:30pm

George Motta of Renewable Resources, LLC, the company that leases the land from KSBE, and Bill Stormont of American Forest Management, Inc., the management firm contracted to manage the land, will share their current plans with respect to the eucalyptus plantations and their management of the land, eventual harvest, & foreseeable future.  Q&A to follow.

Light refreshments will be served.
For more information
please contact Councilmember Yagong’s office at 961-8538