Kenai City Council members convene for their regular meeting at the council chambers on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai City Council members convene for their regular meeting at the council chambers on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai council moves ahead with slash site resolution

Community members could dispose of spruce beetle-infested trees and other vegetation at the site

The Kenai City Council adopted a resolution during its meeting Wednesday to accept a grant from the state to fund spruce bark beetle mitigation and hazard fuel reduction efforts in the city.

The council unanimously voted to accept $50,000 per year for three years from the state Department of Natural Resources to establish a slash disposal site where community members can dispose of spruce beetle-infested trees and other vegetation that increases the risk of fire on private property.

Kenai City Council member Teea Winger vocalized her full support for the resolution during the meeting Wednesday.

“It’s expensive for people to take multiple loads to Soldotna,” she said. “So hopefully this will encourage people to get out and firewise their properties, which I think really was our intent.”

Firewising — safely removing highly flammable materials from a property to reduce potential fire hazard — has been emphasized by officials following the most recent spruce bark beetle infestation.

The beetles kill spruce and sometimes birch trees by feeding and breeding in the thin layer of soft living tissue beneath the spruce bark, called the phloem, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The outbreak had affected at least 1.6 million acres across Alaska from 2016 to 2021. Last year, the Forest Service reported that the infestation was most damaging in the northern Matanuska-Susitna Borough, lower Denali Borough, and around Cooper Landing, Kenai and Soldotna.

Council member James Baisden said he wants to encourage Kenai community members to remain diligent and firewise, even as the resolution was adopted.

“All these efforts that you’re going to see from the government is never going to be enough to fix this problem,” he said. “So in this line of conversation, we need to make sure that everybody out there listening to this is taking the proactive steps to protect their own property.”

Council members also discussed the potential for aid to elderly residents or people with disabilities who may be unable to physically firewise their own properties or use the slash site. As the legislation stands now, there is no solidified prospect of relief for this demographic.

“Right now there’s not an avenue yet on that,” Kenai Fire Department Chief Tony Prior said. “We’re doing the best we can with the funds and the people we can but we can’t deal with everybody’s personal property.”

The public hearing for the resolution will be at the council’s next regular meeting on June 15.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at

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