Council adopts policy changes to address emerald ash borerSuperior’s City Council made some decisions on how to address the city’s emerald ash borer infestation.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Superior’s City Council made some decisions on how to address the city’s emerald ash borer infestation.
The city will waive an ordinance disallowing the use of pesticides on public land to allow treatment of trees to stave off infestation by the metallic-green beetle.
It will allow residents to treat public ash trees in the boulevards at their own expense with a free permit from the city.
The city will establish a marshaling yard for disposal where residents can take their private ash trees if they have to take them down.
The council even approved chipping ash trees on site for transport to a marshaling area and allowing city staff to continue taking troubled ash — those with at least 50 percent crown dieback, leaning or showing other signs of distress of infestation — until the council adopts a strategy to deal with the problem.
After all, while city administration presented some options, the unbudgeted costs and environmental impact of losing 3,000 ash trees in a relatively short period of time — at a time when the city has numerous other issues to address — is a lot to think about.
And none of the options are going to be cheap.
Councilors were presented with options that include treating, taking and replanting trees, taking and replanting without treatment, or selecting corridors where the city could treat while it continues to take dying trees and replants with a variety of different species.
Whatever approach councilors take, it’s going to mean balancing the environmental value — estimated at $3.7 million today — against the real numbers they have to work with in subsequent budgets.
A 12-inch diameter tree has an estimated annual value of $1,470 annually for the environmental benefit it provides. A medium tree removes about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 4.3 pounds of pollutant, absorbs 5,380 gallons of rainwater and saves homeowners about 20 percent on annual utilities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Urban Forest Research.
Estimates for treating trees to stage a slower extraction of ash trees from city boulevards place the cost of treating, taking and replacing trees at about $700,200 at the end of the 14-year plan. Each treatment, estimated at $7.50 per diameter inch or $180 for a 24-inch diameter tree — would buy about three years of the tree’s life.
At the end of that three years, City Forester Mary Morgan said the council could re-evaluate the plan to determine if treating is worth the funding.
Councilor Dan Olson questioned the wisdom of going to the expense of treating the trees when crews would eventually take all the city’s ash trees and replant them with different species.
Louise Levy of Levy Tree Service in Duluth, said councilors should weigh treatment as an option for staging the removal of ash — not all of which are likely to die as a result of the infestation.
After all, the plan that calls for treatment would allow the city to take ash trees and replant with a variety of species until 2028. Three thousand new trees would be planted by then.
The less expensive plan, about $70,000 once fully implemented, that doesn’t include treatment would have all the city’s ash trees removed by 2020 and only about 1,400 new species of trees would be planted to replace the 3,000 lost ash.
The council plans to consider its options again at the Oct. 15 council committee of the whole meeting. The council left the option open to make a decision at that meeting.