Borough Considers Stream Health in Plans for Chiniak Reforestation

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Kodiak Island Borough will pursue replanting at least two types of trees in the Chiniak area. At its regular meeting last night, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly approved entering into a contract with Koncor Forest Products to buy spruce tree seedlings for reforestation of the burned Chiniak area.

According to Resource Management Officer Duane Dvorak, staff is also investigating using cuttings from cottonwood trees to replant by the streams, or in the “riparian area,” which could maintain water quality. He says they would snip a piece of branch off in December or January when the trees are dormant.

“These cuttings would be six, seven inches a piece. They would be put in a freezer and then they would be pulled out of the freezer maybe a week before planting, and they would be soaked for several days as part of the thawing process and then for them to rehydrate and then when you stick them in the ground, they’re pretty much ready to grow at that point, and they’ll start putting out their own rhizomes and roots.”

Assemblyman Scott Smiley suggested they replant a mix of tree species instead of just cottonwood, and Borough Mayor Jerrol Friend tapped into his own experience as a building contractor.

“To me, the way they’re doing the cottonwoods and everything doesn’t make sense. I’ve been doing it for years. You go out in the springtime and you clip off a little tip of an alder, stick it in the ground, I’ll tell you what, that thing is gone. I don’t know how many hillsides around houses I’ve done and, I mean, there is no freezing them or putting them in bags or anything else like that.”

Dvorak said he asked the borough’s forestry consultant the same question regarding the choice of cottonwoods, and he said it’s the cheapest and easiest species of tree to obtain.

“It’s really intended to provide the benefits to the anadromous streams until the replanted forest can succeed and these other species can get a foot hold, but that eventually some of these cottonwoods would be pushed out in favor of other species, but this is a stop-gap placeholder to provide that benefit to the salmon stream while the other species can recolonize.”

Assemblyman Larry LeDoux also suggested involving students in the replanting.

“When we have these tens of thousands of seedlings, it would be nice if we set aside 800 or so for elementary students to plant a tree and to make this planting part of a community education effort where perhaps some of the kids could go out and see the planting and when they get old enough, they’ll know that they were part of this forest development.”

Staff assured the assembly that it would look into engaging the public in the replanting.

The assembly’s next work session is scheduled for Thursday. There will also be a joint work session between the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly and the Kodiak City Council on Tuesday.

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