HILO, Hawaii (AP) — A task force is working on eradicating albizia trees on the east side of Big Island within the next several weeks.

The Hawaii Island Albizia Task Force has planned four control projects totaling $1 million, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Monday.

The task force is made up of members from the Big Island Invasive Species Committee, the state Department of Transportation, Hawaii County Civil Defense, Hawaii Electric Light Co., the U.S. Forest Service and other organizations.

The first project, which cost more than $200,000 is nearly complete, said Springer Kaye, manager for the Big Island Invasive Species Committee.

The first project targeted all albizia within 328 feet (100 meters) of a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) stretch of the Puainako Extension where the more 100 foot (30.5 meter) tall trees have caused significant traffic hazards.

The following projects will focus on albizia near the Hilo landfill, trees on a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) stretch of road with access to the Hilo International Airport and a 200-foot (61-meter) tall albizia which poses a threat to surrounding residences.

The remaining three projects will begin once arborists become available, Kaye said.

She expects those will take about four weeks to finish.

The trees, which tend to lose larges branches during heavy rain, pose a significant risk to nearby structures, people and roadway.

After a 2014 tropical storm, albizia limbs blocked roads throughout Puna and disabled power lines for days.

"Our primary concern is safety," said Bill Buckley, BIISC albizia project coordinator in a statement. "These are some of the most heavily used streets in East Hawaii, and falling trees and branches severely impact access and can potentially cause serious injury."

The nitrogen-rich trees also create an ideal environment for invasive species and pose a threat to river gulches and runoff water.

Residents are starting to realize the negative consequences the fast-growing trees can lead to.

"It's taken a while, but people really get now that these are invasive trees and we don't want them, we want better trees," Kaye said.


Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/