As wildfire continues to scorch the landscape on the Kenai Peninsula, residents have come to worry about the resurgent spruce-bark beetle, a tiny pest that killed thousands of trees 20 years ago.
One of those residents is Patty See, who asked the City of Kenai what plans it has during the council meeting Wednesday.
“I'm sure that you share my concerns about the beetle kill. I just watched with the frustration and the worries from Cooper Landing. And I think it could have happened anywhere on our peninsula,” she said. “And I'm just I guess I want to know that as a city, we're looking at what we can do to maybe begin to eliminate some of this beetle kill. And I guess I want to know if there's dialogue going on within our city.”
City Manager Paul Ostrander responded that various cities and the borough have been ramping up efforts and she can expect them to be doing more work together in the future.
“Right now what we're attempting to do is remove any trees that are on city property, they’re a life and safety issue. That's the first step. I've also been in communications with the borough both the mayor's office and the planning department. There was an area that folks could haul their slash back in the 2000s when we had our previous spruce bark beetle epidemic, and the borough's is seriously considering opening that up again. The one in the city of Kenai, which formerly was on Redoubt, would be located in the same place again, to give folks some place to go,” Ostrander said. “I also think that you'll see collaboration (and) coordination between the different municipalities in the borough at some point to look for grant funds that can take kind of a look at the entire borough and figure out where those grant funds should be utilized to get rid of those hazard threats so that we don't have that risk, certainly during a fire season like we had this year.”