Kolb describes the poplar problem at the Missoula processing plant

Several years ago, Missoula city officials planted a grove of cottonwood trees at the city’s sewage treatment plant to help treat the water before it returned to the Clark Fork River.

On Thursday’s Talk Back program on KGVO, forest scientist Dr Peter Kolb said he was now part of a committee to help decide what to do with all those poplars.

“The city just formed an advisory council for this cottonwood grove, and I’m on it and we had our first meeting on Monday of this week,” Dr. Kolb said. “We went out and looked. These trees are now eight years old. These are hybrid poplars. They average between eight and 14 inches across at about four feet off the ground, and I’d say they’re probably around 40 to 50 feet tall.

Dr. Kolb said the original plan for the hybrid poplars was to use them at a power plant in Oregon.

“When they were planted, the idea was that there was a power plant in Oregon that had planted all of the same hybrid poppers and was going to power the power plant with those as well as provide wood fiber “, did he declare. “It all fell apart because it was a very energy-intensive program and they would have had to irrigate those trees with millions of gallons of Columbia River water which, of course, was not available. When everything stopped. There is no market for these (trees).

Dr Kolb said the advisory board was just beginning to look at possible uses for the huge poplar stand.

“We are exploring alternatives for what to do with these,” he said. “I think they were planted a bit under a false premise of carbon sequestration. These things grow fast, die fast, and decay fast. So the net carbon sequestration is basically zero, because they just decompose and that carbon dioxide goes back into the air.

Dr. Kolb said the options for the hybrid poplar grove are limited and could prove very expensive.

“The problem is that (the trees) get mature, they start having disease issues in there,” he said. “And so we’re looking at what might be the best solutions for this site and there are a lot of different options on the table for that. But one of the problems is removing the trees; However, removing these trees at this stage would cost millions.

Kolb told Talk Back listeners that he believed the advisory board members would do whatever they could to resolve the issue.

“The people who are involved in this project are all very good, smart people and they are looking for alternatives,” he said. “They try to do the best job possible. I think the project was pushed a bit prematurely when it was launched without a good thought about the long term solution.

The processing plant and poplar plantation are located on Clark Fork Lane, beside the Clark Fork River.

The newly created “Entitled Homeless Camp” is also located in the same area.

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