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State and Region briefs for July 17

Watershed rehabilitation work shows signs of success

HONOLULU — A watershed rehabilitation project is showing signs of success as former dirt slopes on Kahoolawe are now covered in green.

The Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission has overseen the Hakioawa watershed project since August 2018. The project is funded by a $50,000 grant from the state Department of Health and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

An estimated 1.9 million tons of soil erodes from Kahoolawe annually, project officials said. The project focuses on soil erosion control by planting native flora and removing non-native weeds.

The drought-resistant native plants include a variety of shrubs, ground cover, trees and a coastal grass called akiaki.

Nearly 200 volunteers from throughout the state have worked at the site, which rises from 400-1,300 feet in elevation.

Volunteers contributed more than 3,000 hours and moved 120,000 pounds of rock “all by hand, taking care not to pick up rocks from cultural sites, or artifacts,” said Paul Higashino, a KIRC natural resource specialist.

The danger of unexploded ordnance also posed a special challenge at Hakioawa, as there is no digging allowed.

“We put in 20,000 plants without digging a hole,” Higashino said.

Slowing erosion reduces runoff and sedimentation in the ocean habitat, although Kahoolawe remains harsh, windblown and dry, Higashino said.

Official sentenced for mailing meth

HAGATNA, Guam — A Guam Homeland Security official was sentenced for mailing methamphetamine to his workplace.

Ricky Q. Sanchez, 42, was sentenced Monday to serve 30 months in prison. Sanchez pleaded guilty in 2016 to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Sanchez was involved in a plan to mail two packages of meth from Las Vegas to Guam’s Homeland Security headquarters in Agana Heights in 2014, authorities said. Sanchez was in Las Vegas training for his job when the first package of 27.4 grams of pure meth was misaddressed and intercepted by authorities.

After the first package failed to arrive, Sanchez sent the correct address to mainland supplier Francisco Arias, who mailed another package to the correct Homeland Security address.

Sanchez told investigators there also was meth in the second package, which never was seized, court records said.

It was “pretty damn stupid,” said public defender John Gorman during the sentencing hearing. “The facts look bad. We don’t dispute that.”

Gorman argued Sanchez must care for a disabled son, has personal medical problems and complied with pre-trial release requirements since 2016. Legislative and municipal officials who have known Sanchez for years also requested leniency.

U.S. District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood rejected Gorman’s request for an 18-month sentence.

“You were in a trusted position,” Tydingco-Gatewood told Sanchez, an operations supervisor who worked at Homeland Security for 13 years.

Meth supplier Arias was separately sentenced to life in prison.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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