Council considers ash tree removalSuperior’s City Council weighs options tonight to deal with the problem presented by emerald ash borer.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Superior’s City Council weighs options tonight to deal with the problem presented by emerald ash borer.
After reviewing three options to address the potential for a large number of dying trees two weeks ago, city forester Mary Morgan is recommending the Council follow the least costly option. It’s one that would eliminate almost 3,000 ash trees from city rights of way by 2020 at a cost of $70,000. The plan includes replacing about 1,400 of those trees with diverse species of trees.
The cost for the proposal is about one tenth of that of an option that would stage removal over a longer period of time by treating and retreating ash trees over a period of 15 years until all the ash trees were removed and replaced with other species.
By 2028, all the existing city-owned ash trees, with an estimated $3.7 million annual value based on environmental benefits, would be gone despite treatment under the more costly proposal.
The emerald ash borer has killed millions of trees since its discovery in 2002 in the Detroit, Mich.-area.
While Milwaukee has found some success with treating its ash over the last five years, treatment started before emerald ash borer reached Wisconsin’s largest city. There, the cost to remove 36,000 public ash trees is estimated at $27 million.
“It’s better and cheaper for us to treat a majority of our trees,” said Ian Brown, Milwaukee’s urban forest technical services manager.
However, unlike Superior, Milwaukee has a designated forestry staff able to treat the trees. Superior would have to contract for the service.
For Vivian Markley, vice chairwoman of the Superior’s Urban Forest Tree Board, the less costly option is the more responsible one.
“I definitely think we should go with that option — I hate to say it,” Markley said. “Money is so important, the finances of our city, and we know eventually, we’re going to lose these trees anyway. I think we need to take these trees out, replant, and it needs to be done in a systematic way.”
In addition to considering the city’s overall strategy to address dying trees, which pose a threat to public safety, the Council considers options for funding.
Options include using about $20,000 from the tree fund to treat about 186 trees on Tower Avenue from North 28th to 54th streets and 75 trees on the East Second Street corridor. Treatment would buy about three years of life for the trees that grace city entrances.
Another option would use money from the fund to supplement the city’s tree planning budget, doubling the city’s annual $5,000 allocation. That would allow the city to plant 200 trees annually, which is part of the plan for removing the ash trees over six years.
“In recent years, we have had some very generous donors through the Tribute Tree Program,” Morgan said.
She said by using the tree fund, the Council doesn’t have to carve away from other projects for either option.
In addition, Morgan said she has applied for a tree-planting grant of $5,000 through the American Transmission Company, and she will continue to seek opportunities like that to help with the replanting effort.
“It’s so important that people in our city, in each of the districts, know that this is happening,” Markley said.
Citizens really need to be at that meeting, Markley said. She said she’s been encouraging people to attend because many property owners have ash trees in their yard, and the effect of the metallic green beetle is going to affect them too.
As the owner of a five-acre parcel in Billings Park, where Markley planted two ash trees when she built her home 30 years ago, she said she too is facing the loss of trees that are beautiful right now.
Whatever option the council picks, Morgan said private citizens could still elect to treat boulevard trees in their neighborhoods — and she’s had some willing to do that. However, residents need to get a free permit so the city knows where they are.
However, if the tree is showing signs of distress — dieback in the canopy of 50 percent or more, leaning, suckering — the tree would be taken.
There is the danger the city could be overwhelmed by dead trees of way at some point, Morgan said.
“If the tree dies, and the branches fall onto homes, cars or citizens, the city is liable for those damages,” Morgan said. “That is the case of any tree that is planted in the public right of way. Further, as the trees fail, the likelihood of storm damage grows” making high winds, heavy rain and blizzards more hazardous.
“I think we need to just take care of the problem now,” Markley said. “By treating we are putting more and more money every couple of years in the treatment, where that money could be better used in the replanting.”