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Beetle battle gets new federal funds

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2008

Ongoing efforts to mitigate the devastation caused by the spruce bark beetle outbreak that has killed much of the Kenai Peninsula spruce forest over the past two decades got a financial boost Tuesday when the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted to appropriate a $984,000 federal grant to the program.

The assembly also approved spending $8,000 of interest earned on previous grants to the Spruce Bark Beetle Program to complete construction of a new fire station at Moose Pass.

Ordinance 2007-19-54, the vehicle for the U.S. Forest Service grant, was adopted unanimously. The grant money will allow the program to continue removing hazardous trees from around populated areas that could be threatened by wildfire, as well as to forward geographic information system work, provide resources to support Community Wildfire Protection Plans, and provide funding to support seasonal fire crews.

The grant required a 100-percent match, but allowed existing money and projects to fulfill that role, meaning the borough was not required to add more of its own funds.

"Because of that (need for a) match, this was asked to be set for expedited hearing so Spruce Bark Beetle Program could capture the work already in progress," said Assemblyman Gary Superman, of Nikiski, who chairs the assembly's finance committee.

"It allows a 90-day look back period to capture those moneys to be expended in program to be utilized as a match," he said, adding that passing the ordinance on an accelerated schedule would allow the borough to take advantage of a beneficial window of time.

The assembly also enacted Ordinance 2007-19-53, appropriating the interest money to the Moose Pass Volunteer Fire Company station project, by a unanimous vote.

Other ordinances enacted after public hearings Tuesday included:

* Ordinance 2008-14, authorizing the sale of borough land by sealed bids. The bid opening is set for Oct. 24. The seven parcels include four in the Kalifornsky Beach area and three in the Cohoe area. Information about the properties is available through the borough.

* Ordinance 2008-15, authorizing the negotiated sale at fair market value of 0.61 acres of land of Homer High School property to the Homer Assembly of God church.

The assembly also adopted several resolutions, including:

* Resolution 2008-061 strongly urging the state to expedite work projects to repair hazardous sections of the Seward Highway and Sterling Highway.

* Resolution 2008-057 naming Assemblyman Pete Sprague to the Kenai Peninsula College Council.

* Resolution 2008-60 supporting state and federal funding totaling $16 million for a Kenai River Bluff Erosion Project.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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