Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Guest editorial — Mowing down reed canary grass

Why attack?
Reed canary grass is a non-native species that was intentionally planted on the Kenai Peninsula to control erosion. Unfortunately, the grass grows so well, even in the middle of rivers and streams, that it can cause the channel to narrow or dam up completely.

When this happens in salmon streams, loss of fish habitat can occur, along with the creation of barriers to spawning and migration.

Plan of attack
Since the reed canary grass that Kenai Watershed Forum is going after is located near salmon streams, spraying herbicide is not our first choice for getting rid of the grass.

Instead, black tarps will cover the grass to block out sunlight for several summers. In cases where the grass is growing in the channel of the river, the plant will be repeatedly mowed down below the water level in an effort to drown it.

Did we win?
While the grass is not yet waving a white flag, KWF made significant progress this summer at Jim’s Landing, Beaver Creek and Bing’s Landing. Still, there are over 250 known infestations of reed canary grass on the Kenai Peninsula, but most of them are less than an acre, making this an ideal time for control measures. If all goes well, next year’s battlegrounds will include Boat Launch Road and Slikok Creek.

Josselyn O’Connor is the membership coordinator and office manager with the Kenai Watershed Forum.

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