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Search is on for new operator to harvest eucalyptus

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Eucalyptus trees line Highway 11 in Paauilo.

Kamehameha Schools is seeking a new operator to harvest a portion of 10,000 acres of forest on the Hamakua Coast and will issue a request for proposal today.

The new operator will harvest 3,000 acres of eucalyptus in Hilo, Paauilo makai and near the rim of Waipio Valley, the educational and charitable trust said in a news release.

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“We chose these areas because we want to immediately transition those locations for other uses, such as community education programs and other agricultural activities,” said Marissa Harman, Kamehameha Schools director of asset management on Hawaii Island.

Harman said in Paauilo, Kamehameha Schools developed partnerships with “community collaborators for educational programs on our land,” and for agricultural programs, there are “always interested parties,” but specific activities would depend on “who comes forward when the land becomes available.

The operator will be awarded a short-term license as opposed to a long-term lease.

Kamehameha Schools planted 12,700 acres of eucalyptus trees after acquiring about 30,000 acres of former sugar lands in the 1990s.

The previous lease expired Dec. 31, 2016, when LHF Lopiwa LLC notified Kamehameha Schools that it would not extend its lease agreement.

In 2017, Paauilo-based Hawaii Forest was selected to move on to final lease negotiations in the previous selection process, but withdrew from those negotiations in June.

“We took the last three months or so to basically regroup and discuss going forward how we wanted to approach these lands,” Harman said. “We do need more time to work on our long-term plan, but we do know there is some land we immediately want to transition and so that’s where we selected these 3,000 (acres) to put up in the initial harvest license.”

According to Harman, use of the harvested eucalyptus depends on the proposals submitted.

There are no specific plans for the remainder of the land at this point, she said. How the harvest goes will “help inform our future plans.”

According to the news release, Kamehameha Schools dedicates more land to sustainable agriculture than any other private landowner in the state and is “deeply committed to keeping its Hamakua lands in productive agriculture.”

RFPs go out today, and bidders will have until Nov. 15 to submit a proposal. A selection should be made by early 2019, after which the selected bidder will enter into negotiations for a license agreement, according to Harman.

The RFP will seek operators with experience in plantation forest management, marketing and harvesting experience. Harman said there are currently about 20 interested bidders.

“With the amount of interest we’ve seen since our last bid process, we are very hopeful and excited to see what will come forward in the next month,” she said.

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Interested bidders can email Kama Dancil at kadancil@ksbe.edu for more information.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.