KENAI (AP) -- Help appears on the way for residents of the Kenai Peninsula who are struggling to dispose of mountains of slash from beetle-killed trees.
Michael Fastabend, the Kenai Peninsula Borough's spruce bark beetle coordinator, said officials hope to start soliciting bids next week from contractors who can provide chippers and grinders to dispose of the slash. That's the woody debris left behind after clearing a section of land.
Borough officials also will solicit proposals from communities, subdivisions and local fire chiefs for slash-disposal projects in areas where the debris left from clearing beetle-killed trees poses a significant fire hazard, he said.
''We'll accept proposals from everyone,'' Fastabend told the Peninsula Clarion. ''We hope to identify projects and start by the middle of July. We could start some projects by the first of July.''
Technicians will prioritize the projects -- taking into account how much fuel is available for wildfires, the likelihood that a fire will occur and the potential losses from such a fire.
Fastabend said the borough will work from the top of that list, matching each project with the least expensive contractor in the area.
Anchorage used a similar program in hiring private contractors to provide chippers, he said.
The borough will have to tailor its programs to local needs, Fastabend said.
''In Homer, the trees have far more limbs per tree,'' he said. ''Dragging slash to the highway may not be an option. From Kasilof to Kenai, people only have five or six trees (apiece to dispose of). They certainly can.''
The Kenai Peninsula Borough will fund the work using $300,000 from a $2 million federal grant to remove hazardous trees and dispose of slash in the wake of the spruce bark beetle infestation.
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