Council weighs pros, cons of ash tree optionsSuperior’s City Council has a decision to make in the wake of emerald ash borer discovered in August.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Superior’s City Council has a decision to make in the wake of emerald ash borer discovered in August.
After seven weeks of research into the issue, City Forester Mary Morgan lays out three options for the council to consider as the city faces the loss of about 3,000 public ash trees to the metallic green beetle believed imported from China more than a decade ago.
The beetle has left millions of ash trees dead in its wake in 20 states and two provinces in Canada.
All of the proposals have an upside and downside, Morgan said.
Under one scenario, the city would treat about 1,200 trees with a diameter greater than 12 inches, remove about 800 trees and plant about 200 trees in 2014. In subsequent years of the 14-year plan, fewer trees would be treated, and additional trees would be taken until the 3,000 ash trees are removed and replaced. The cost of the plan is about $700,200.
The downside of the proposal includes the unbudgeted expense of treatment that must be repeated in three years, and will likely be taken eventually and it’s not known if the city will be able to stay ahead of ash tree mortality. However, it would give the community the environmental benefits of ash until it fails, and all ash would be replaced with new species over the course of the 15-year plan.
The second scenario calls for the city to remove between 300 and 600 ash trees over seven years, however, fewer than half would be replaced at the end of seven-year plan, and citizens would lose the environmental benefits ash trees provide. A medium size tree removes about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 4.3 pounds of pollutants, absorbs 5,380 gallons of rainwater and saves homeowners up to 20 percent on utilities each year according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Urban Forest Research.
The upside is hazard trees are removed to the benefit of public safety, the city would use the existing city labor force to save money, removing ash could suppress the infestation and the expense of treatment is eliminated.
“I think what will happen for us is while we are dealing with this problem, we would have to place our routine pruning on hold,” Morgan said. However, she said hazard tree removal would still take place for other tree species. Planting in April or May would also continue, she said.
The third scenario calls for treating specimen corridors with an unknown cost until the corridors are identified, retaining the best ash trees and community character for three while the city removes the hazard trees. Like the first option, the treatment expense is not budgeted and costs are unknown. The mayor, council and administration would have to justify their decisions and criteria with the public.
“Personally, I think the council is going to need time to digest these numbers, and think about the whole upside and downside,” Morgan said. She said the council will have to weigh costs against the value of the city’s ash, estimated at $3.7 million dollars.
“As the forester, I must advocate for the value those ash trees present to the community in the landscape,” Morgan said.
The council also considers policy changes related to ash trees, such as waiving the city’s pesticide ordinance and allowing residents to treat public trees at their own expense with a free permit from the city. The council also considers establishing a marshaling yard to receive private ash trees for proper disposal, and allowing city staff to continue taking public ash until a final decision is made.
The council meets at 6:30 p.m. today in Room 201 of the Government Center.