Hawaii Legislature Evaluates Vetiver as a Vegetative Erosion Barrier

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Although the USA has badly lagged the rest of the world in the implementation of vegetative soil erosion controls, we are finally seeing steps in the right direction. Sometimes these "baby steps" come from where you least expect them. Of all places, the Hawaii Senate in State Concurrent Resolution SCR176 is requesting their Department of Land and Natural Resources and their Department of Transportation to research the use of Vetiver as an erosion barrier.

In the resolution, the senate recognizes that in spite of millions of dollars having been invested in "
hard engineering structures", soil erosion "continues to compromise road safety, pollute streams and coastal waters, and kill reefs". The Senate also established that "additional mitigation work could be completed if effective methods of slope stabilization and soil erosion prevention were more economical, environmentally-friendly, and readily available".

In conclusion, the resolution states:

"BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the Twenty-fifth Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2009, the House of Representatives concurring, that the Legislature requests that the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation research the use of vegetative erosion barriers, particularly Vetiver grass, to minimize soil erosion and prevent the resulting runoff from damaging roads, streams, coastal waters, and reefs and to stabilize stream banks, hillsides, and other threatened sites."
The summary page with the ongoing status of the measure can be seen here: Hawaii State Legislature SCR176.

Given that
Hawaii is probably the most conservative and protectionist state when it comes to exotic plants, this is a major milestone. Vetiver has been in Hawaii for many years, and evidence of its merits is very evident, so this should probably move along very rapidly. What the good senators may not know, however is that their state Department of Agriculture has a regulation in place that requires a two-year quarantine for the importation of any grass. I suspect that there is not enough Vetiver supply in Hawaii to support a project of this magnitude in the short term. Given Vetiver's well documented non-invasiveness, it should not be part of this extreme regulation.

I suggest we all keep an eye on this one.
Stay tuned . . .

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