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Council takes on Rail Road Herbicide, Personal Use Wood Cutting, Flood Infrastructure and more

by Lorien Nettleton ~ May 7th, 2013

The days are getting longer, and so are the meetings of the Talkeetna Community Council. Monday night’s monthly meeting of the Council was standing room only for the first few hours, and remarkable number of people stayed for the full four-and-a-half-hour session, which adjourned at 11:30 pm. Among the topics of discussion were the Railroad’s plan to apply pesticides to the tracks, latest developments in the Talketna Parks and Recreation committee, Talketna Water and Sewer Utility, and Flood mitigation and preparation in advance of the spring break-up.Tom Brooks and Tim Sullivan from the Alaska Rail Road Corporation attended the meeting and fielded numerous questions from the board and the audience regarding the railroad’s plans to apply herbicides Oust Extra and Agridex, along with the surfactant Aquamaster along the whole length of the tracks from Seward to Fairbanks. Brooks informed the council that the railroad was taking precautions to prevent herbicides from being applied to water, but declined to give specifics on how this would be accomplished. Several audience members asked the rail road reps for assurances that they could identify certain flag-stops to be excluded from spraying. The council eventually passed a resolution requesting the railroad not spray on the tracks between Craver’s farm at the south end of downtown talkeetna, all the way north to mile 5 of the chase trail, due to the high amount of public activity along that length. The Council also passed a resolution taking a position in opposition to the Rail Road’s use of pesticide in the state.

Talkeetna will be a Purple Heart city, after a vote on Monday night saw only one council member opposed. The declaration of Purple Heart City comes with a road sign, that will be placed at the VFW.

Mat Su Borough Emergency Manager Casey Cook updated the council on flood repair and mitigation projects that have been in the works since last September’s high water events. Cook informed the council that the dike was not recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Administration, because of a borough failure to file paperwork with the Feds to classify the Dike as protective infrastructure, FEMA had no record of the dike’s existence. Because in FEMA’s view, the dike did not exists, it was ineligible for certain federal funds for repair. The Borough is filing appeals on the federal findings. Cook also said that the Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for making regular inspections, but that he had so far been able to find just one record of an inspection report from the life of the dike. The Council will ask the Borough Department of Public Works to inspect the dike soon, before water rises making it more difficult to assess.

Another topic at Monday’s meeting was a personal-use wood harvest area proposed for borough lands at Beaver Road adjacent to Old-Lake road. Chris Mannix and members of the Parks and Rec committee met with Borough land managers to discuss a recreational easement for the Ridge trail which crosses areas of the proposed wood-harvest land, and were able to secure a 250 foot buffer for the trail, but land-owners from the area expressed concerns about how a 600 acre area could sustain harvesting activities without damaging the ecology of the land. Mark Wildermuth and Billy Fitzgerald both expressed a desire to see the whole area set aside as recreational lands, but due to the presence of a gravel pit in the area, it is unlikely that the borough would reclassify the lands. The Council ultimately agreed to ask the Borough to make some adjustments to the harvest permits. If harvests are to be allowed, the council agreed that it would be preferable that harvesting occur only in the winter, and to limit vehicle access to tracked winter vehicles, to minimize damage to the vegetation. They also will ask the allowable harvest be reduced from 6 cords to three, and make community reviews possible in case the wood harvests are damaging the area.

The final 30 minutes of the epic meeting saw a flurry of actions approved. The council will write a letter to the borough requesting that funding for Community Schools be added back to the budget, after it was eliminated in the current proposed budget. The Borough assembly will be deliberating the budget this week.

The council will also submit a Community Improvement Project Request for capital construction of a new library in Talkeetna. The request will only be submitted as a contingency in the event that library is not allocated funds from the Borough budget.

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