Soldotna will get inexperienced mild to sort out beetle-killed bushes

Soldotna Metropolis Council members gave metropolis administration the inexperienced mild to start out tackling bushes infested with spruce bark beetles independently of federal grant cash that’s been delayed.

The town utilized in January 2020 for funds wanted to take away beetle-killed bushes and to conduct fireplace hazard mitigation work, in accordance a decision handed by the council Wednesday. That software, submitted to the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program by way of Alaska’s Division of Homeland Safety and Emergency Administration, described about $300,000 price of proposed work throughout greater than 375 acres of metropolis land citing the wildfire danger of contaminated bushes.

Soldotna Metropolis Supervisor Stephanie Queen stated the town met with state staff who’ve helped facilitate the funds, which originate inside the Federal Emergency Administration Company, to emphasise the urgency of the town’s infestation. As the town seems to be to open its campgrounds for the summer season, nevertheless, it doesn’t seem that these funds will likely be out there in time.

“Though the original grant was to deal with wildfire mitigation, now, we’ve got a real concern about the proximity of some of these trees to our campgrounds (and) our trails,” Queen stated.

Whereas Soldotna has waited for updates on the grant cash, the town’s infestation has turn out to be worse. Websites recognized within the laws as being of explicit concern embrace Centennial Campground, Swiftwater Campground, Soldotna Memorial Park, Aspen Park, Three Buddies Canine Park and Parker Park.

“Our issue right now is gravity,” Soldotna Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Carmichael instructed council members Wednesday. “It’s not fire, it’s not green, it’s not brown. It’s gravity. We’ve got trees falling. … We used to have the occasional call after a windstorm and now we have them rampant.”

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Council members on Wednesday licensed Queen to exit to bid for tree removing efforts, with the understanding that various grant alternatives will likely be pursued. If various funds can’t be secured, metropolis administration plans to hunt approval for the usage of American Rescue Plan Act cash for the venture.

Metropolis workers had been “advised” by state workers that if mitigation work begins earlier than the grant is formally executed, that work wouldn’t be eligible for reimbursement by way of this system and it might put the town’s present software in danger.

Some websites affected by spruce beetles, Carmichael wrote in an April 5 memo to council members, could be addressed utilizing small contractors and metropolis workers. Different areas, corresponding to Centennial and Swiftwater campgrounds, will want a “substantial contract and advanced equipment capabilities” to ensure that them to open safely for the summer season, he wrote.

“The time is now to act to remove hazardous trees wherever we can,” Carmichael wrote.

Carmichael estimates that there are 900 bushes that want to come back down between Centennial and Swiftwater campgrounds, which might price “upwards of $180,000.” In response to “conservative” estimates, the work would price round $130,000 — it might price as much as $200 per tree to totally fell and take away it from a web site, Carmichael wrote.

In all, the Metropolis of Soldotna obtained simply over $1 million in ARPA funds. The council permitted the usage of as much as $150,000 of that cash for grant consulting companies, however the cash has in any other case not been used.

“I think this is a wise use of those funds, to essentially back up our efforts to seek other funds and essentially stretch those dollars out,” stated council member Justin Ruffridge of the potential use of ARPA funds for beetle kill mitigation

Soldotna Mayor Paul Whitney criticized “the bureaucracy” delaying the grant monies.

“I hate to see the City of Soldotna be penalized by FEMA, for moving ahead on a safety issue,” Whitney stated. “You know, I guess the bureaucracy needs to understand that a tree doesn’t wait for them.”

As of 2020, greater than 150,000 acres of forest had been impacted by spruce bark beetle an infection on the Kenai Peninsula, together with about 21,000 acres of forested land between Cooper Touchdown, Kenai and Soldotna, in line with the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Attain reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

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