A business wants to buy slash – or wood debris – created from the tree salvage in Chiniak and turn it into fuel.
Peter Olsen, owner of forestry company Quayanna Development Corporation, says he’s approached borough staff multiple times since the Twin Creeks fire to express interest in the slash.
“Commercial timber operations could produce a considerable amount of wood waste. There’s parts of the tree that is marketable and there’s others that’s not, but we have the ability to convert some of that waste – which has no marketable value to the landowner, in fact it becomes a bit of a liability – and convert that wood waste to something useful for the community.”
The timber harvest of the fire-damaged land may have provided the opportunity, but Olsen says he’s wanted to turn wood debris into a usable product for the last six years or so.
“We believe, we my company – which basically is my two boys and my wife and I – that there’s an opportunity to displace over a million gallons of heating oil in this community with locally produced wood pellets or wood briquettes that are generated from a waste stream that’s otherwise just going to decompose back into the soil.”
The borough has faced the issue of what to do with slash piles in Chiniak, and Olsen’s idea may be a solution. The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly discussed his idea at its work session last week.
Borough Manager Michael Powers explained Olsen is interested in purchasing both slash and firewood, but is likely in the minority of people interested in the debris.
“Mr. Olsen’s probably somewhat in a unique situation with the business venture that he’s looking at doing, but because there is monetary compensation, it does fall under our disposal requirements and we would have to bid that out, and then the slash component of it would be kind of a ‘take it all’ sort of situation. Whether they did or not would be subject to negotiating a contract.”
Assemblyman Dave Townsend called it a matter of one man’s garbage being another man’s treasure.
“The idea of allowing Olsen to do this business is really cool. I’ve got experience with the firewood bricks and they’re fantastic. It’s a really good idea. He’s basically gonna be paying us to clean up a mess that we otherwise don’t know what to do with, so we should encourage him in any way possible.”
Assembly members agreed Powers should begin the preliminary steps of a bidding process, which would include putting together a request for proposal and working out insurance issues.