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Assembly urges less highway clear-cutting

Posted: February 7, 2013 - 9:26pm  |  Updated: February 9, 2013 - 9:50pm

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, spurred by testimony from frustrated residents, approved a resolution Tuesday that requests future right-of-way clearing of trees and brush along state highways be more limited in size than that which recently occurred.

Assembly member Brent Johnson introduced the resolution that asks Gov. Sean Parnell and the Alaska Department of Transportation to limit right-of-way clearing along the Sterling Highway and Kalifornsky Beach Road to 75 feet from the centerline. At issue is whether or not the clearing is effective at deterring browsing moose if not completed on a regular basis, the effect the clearing has on nearby property owners’ privacy, and other complications.

Currently, the DOT is clearing 200 feet from the edge of the road back into the state right-of-way when possible, spokesman Rick Feller said. The current clearing effort is the second phase of work that’s been done in recent years, he said. When DOT receives additional funding that can be put toward clearing, Feller said the department likes to do that “as quickly as possible.”

In the approved resolution, Johnson wrote that the clearing issue has caused consternation among some residents who think that clearing only 75 feet from the centerline would be more effective and that if not re-cut on an annual or biannual basis, the re-growth that occurs makes for “prime” moose browse, which in turn draws more to the sides of the roads.

“A moose magnet, noise pollution, erosion, fire hazard, eyesore, wind, dust, drifting snow, lower property values and rubberneckers are just some of the negatives of this excessive tree cutting,” Ninilchik resident John McCombs said while testifying to the assembly.

McCombs called the clearing — which he said was not up for public comment — a heavy-handed approach to the situation.

David Martin, who also lives near Ninilchik, echoed a similar sentiment. He said DOT clear cutting in the past has not lead to safer roads or keeping the moose away.

“The Sterling Highway in this area currently has large ice packs and is one of the roughest sections on the Peninsula and the moose are really enjoying the new browse,” he said.

Moreover, the clearing has taken away some of Alaska’s mystique, he said.

“(My property) used to look like Alaska, now it looks more like North Dakota,” he said. “It is a 300-foot eyesore with no trees … it is pretty ugly compared with what it used to be. I and my neighbors have lost our wind, sound and visual barrier between our houses and the road and my driveway drifted in for the first time in 26 years.”

Ted Spraker, a former wildlife biologist and chairman of the Board of Game, submitted a letter of unanimous support from the board addressing the issue and commented as a longtime resident.

“I can assure you that with the state and federal practices of putting out fires, especially in this area over the last 40 years, the best moose habitat is now along our highways with this clearing and will be for the future,” he said.

Spraker said he hopes the assembly’s resolution can influence DOT and the governor to provide funding so that DOT can clear on an annual basis.

“We are really setting ourselves up for more moose-vehicle accidents in the future with this highway design unless we take a very active role in clearing those road right-of-ways on an annual basis,” he said.

Feller said the DOT considers the clear-cutting operations benefits to be threefold: removing the food stock from the road; improving sight distance; and providing increased sun exposure.

Removing the food moose and other game browses on near the highway should reduce their presence in those areas. Additionally, should there be any hazard in the right-of-way, having fewer trees and vegetation improves a driver’s ability to see the animal and enhances response time needed to deal with the hazard.

Also, clearing trees in the right of way provides for “increased solar gain exposure of the road.”

“Essentially what that means is more sun hits the road and that enhances the thawing and evaporation of ice and snow that may have accumulated on the road and improves traction,” he said.

Feller said DOT has heard some comments, but wouldn’t say they have heard a lot of resident concerns. He said he thinks the public is much more supportive than non-supportive of the clearing.

“The majority of that comment has been positive because I think, broadly speaking, the public recognizes the value of that work,” he said. “Typically the negative comments we receive are typically from property owners who are adjacent to our right of way ... and that’s understandable.”

Feller said the borough’s resolution will be accepted and evaluated, but he couldn’t say what would come of it.

“We think that common sense dictates that if 75 feet of clearing provides that much of benefit along the safety lines I mentioned, then 100 feet or 125 feet would provide that greater increment more,” he said. “So we do think that the more sight distance that you provide, the more solar gain you can shed on the highway and the less food stuff you can bring to the highway is all good for the safety of the driver.”

 

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.

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jimbob
74
Points
jimbob 02/08/13 - 12:28 pm
3
0
Cut the Brush

I hope DOT continues with the brush cutting in a wide swath and on a regular schedule. The moose are just too dangerous for todays small vehicles. The sooner you can spot them the better. If its on the state right away, CUT it down!

Norseman
2843
Points
Norseman 02/08/13 - 01:35 pm
2
0
....."“The majority of that

....."“The majority of that comment has been positive because I think, broadly speaking, the public recognizes the value of that work,” he said. “Typically the negative comments we receive are typically from property owners who are adjacent to our right of way ... and that’s understandable.”.....
-------------------------------------------------------

Bingo! The vast majority of borough residents WANT the DOT to conintue doing what they are doing. This is a no brainer and DOT described the benefits.

The only negative comments are from property owners. Well I for one hold zero sympathy for them. They knew when they bought the property that the ROW and easement existed.

Now they are screaming bloody murder because DOT is clearing the ROW.

Bottom line is they have nothing to cry about it. They made the decision to buy the land now they can live with the consequences of their decision.

Keep clearing DOT! You are doing a mighty fine job and us who have to drive that road appreciate it very much.

Some of you who live near the highway need to clean up your junkyards, looks more like the landfill than it does Alaska. It takes away from Alaska's mystique.........

jlmh
344
Points
jlmh 02/09/13 - 05:11 am
1
1
Useful shade

I don't live near the right-of-way, but I drive on the highway and think the clear-cutting is hideous. If you need 200 feet to spot a moose, you should slow down and pay attention. The forests are beautiful, block wind and prevent drifting. But I most appreciate having trees during the crepuscular period of day, when the sun is most blinding to drivers. Increased sun exposure is a weak argument and probably negligible in terms of traction on the road; what it really equates to is more sun in drivers' eyes when there are no trees to shade it. That makes it much harder to spot moose or anything between you and the rising/setting sun.

jlmh
344
Points
jlmh 02/09/13 - 05:10 am
0
0
(duplicate)

(duplicate)

Unglued
228
Points
Unglued 02/09/13 - 10:36 am
2
0
This is a no-brainer

DOT should clear to the edges of its right-of-way and clear often enough that nothing grows high enough to attract moose. Having hit two of them, I know how hard they are to see sometimes. One came running out of tall alders on the Seward highway that were growing right out to the edge of the highway. It happened in broad daylight, and I saw it only a split second before it ran into me. The only people who like brushy roadsides are the owners of auto-body shops and car dealerships.

jlmh
344
Points
jlmh 02/10/13 - 01:18 am
0
1
Clearly there is a happy

Clearly there is a happy medium between "tall alders ... growing right out to the edge of the highway" and 200 feet of clear-cutting. I also worry about a protocol of "clear[ing] often enough that nothing grows high enough to attract moose" and how that affects erosion. You need a sturdy root system to prevent soil losses. Is 75 feet not enough visibility for spotting wildlife?

Seafarer
1147
Points
Seafarer 02/10/13 - 04:04 pm
1
1
Cut Browse/Homeowner Plant Deterrents

I agree with the clear-cutting of Moose browse on the sides of the road. I don't want to hit a Moose so a homeowner can have a privacy hedge. My tax dollars do not cover your landscaping. Plant one on your own buck.

Who puts towns on a major highway? Dumbest thing I've ever seen. No identity and sprawl. Ugly strip malls. No safe sidewalks, and no small town feel. This place looks like crap. Uglier than crap.

dbear
4
Points
dbear 02/10/13 - 05:11 pm
2
0
Right of Way clearing:

The DOT is 100% right to clear the full width of highway rights of way. I commuted from Ninilchik to Kenai every work day from 1991 to 2005 and am very well experienced with bad driving conditions, poor visibility to the sides of the road and moose suddenly appearing on the road. The increased visibility from clearing the full width of the rights of way is a major benefit for drivers and has significantly reduced the number of moose/automobile accidents. I say clear cut the full width of all state maintained rights of way.

bigtalkahh
184
Points
bigtalkahh 02/12/13 - 09:23 am
0
0
Keep Cutting

I lived and worked on K-Beach for over 30 years. I remember when the tree line grew right up to the side of the road. I also recall seeing dead moose daily through the winter months. The speed limit was 55 and it was two lanes. DOT made it twice as wide with a turning lane in the middle. What I never understood is, once the road was widened, resurfaced and had all the trees and brush removed, they lowered the speed limit to 45. Once the trees were removed from the ROW, moose were visible to a driver and a lot less were hit. I doubt it had anything to do with reducing the speed limit by 10 mph. DOT: Keeping our ROWs clear makes it easy to see moose. If they like to eat at the roadside, at least they can be seen.

Norseman
2843
Points
Norseman 02/14/13 - 06:25 pm
0
0
Buy property along a major

Buy property along a major highway and then complain because the right of way is maintained. Good grief!

Buy property near a dog kennel and then complain about the barking.

Buy property near the racetrack and then complain about the noise.

Buy property near the dump and then complain about the smell.

You bought that property KNOWING of the eaement for the right of way so you have ZERO to complain about.

If you want a forested private property, then buy something that isn't on a major highway. You made the decison to purchase that property, now live with the consequences.

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