A slash pile containing non-organic construction debris is seen at the Snug Harbor Slash Disposal site on Sept. 22, 2020 in Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough Lang Management)

A slash pile containing non-organic construction debris is seen at the Snug Harbor Slash Disposal site on Sept. 22, 2020 in Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough Lang Management)

State to reimburse borough for slash disposal

The disposal site saw more use in 2020 due to a statewide burn suspension enacted during the 2020 wildland fire season.

The State of Alaska is reimbursing the Kenai Peninsula Borough for additional costs the borough incurred burning slash at a disposal site that saw increased use because of a burn suspension last year.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted during their March 2 meeting to accept $9,600 from the State of Alaska Division of Forestry to supplement the cost of managing the Snug Harbor Slash Disposal Site in Cooper Landing.

According to the legislation approved by the assembly, the site is used by the public to dispose of woody debris, including brush and tree stumps, also known as slash, and saw more use in 2020 due to a statewide burn suspension enacted during the 2020 wildland fire season.

In an email to borough staff, Alaska Division of Forestry Accountant Mary Gaiser said that the money given to the borough is not a grant but is specifically a reimbursement for costs related to slash disposal at the site.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Land Management Agent Trevor Kauffman wrote in a memo to the borough that the costs for which the borough is being reimbursed are the result of both spruce bark beetles and fires. People in the borough he said, have been removing infected trees from their property to reduce the risk of wildland fires on their property. Usually, he wrote, people keep the spruce for firewood or timber and dispose of the slash.

Because it can be costly to haul slash to the disposal site in Cooper Landing, people usually end up burning their slash as a way to dispose of it. However, the Alaska Division of Forestry, which regulates slash burning in the state, suspended large and small burn permits on the Kenai Peninsula for most of the summer in 2020, which resulted in more people disposing of slash at solid waste sites.

Increased slash disposal at the Snug Harbor site in Cooper Landing, Kauffman wrote, is understood to be “an indirect product” of that suspension. Additionally, the state actively encouraged people to use the disposal area as part of an initiative to reduce fire risk in residential areas.

Kauffman said Wednesday that the borough had to contract someone with heavy equipment and material handling trucks to help sort the slash pile, which contained some non-organic construction debris. The borough incurred $9,600 in contractual costs when they burned slash at the site in October of last year, which is what the state offered to supplement.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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