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home : news : news Sunday, May 1, 2016

3/22/2014 Email this articlePrint this article 
City makes plans for emerald ash borer invasion

By Linda Watson
News Editor

The war against the emerald ash borer will hit DeWitt this summer even though the tree pest has not been spotted yet in Clinton County.

"Yet" is the key word for city forester Kevin Rice.

"It will be here at some time," Rice told DeWitt City Council members at Monday night's meeting. Rock Island County is the closest place the devastating insect has been confirmed, he said.

The discussion focused on how to deal with ash trees on city property and boulevards and monitoring chemical treatment of trees by homeowners on private property.

Rice estimates 10 percent of the city's tree stock is made up of ash trees at risk. The evasive borer kills only ash trees.

A survey in 1998 counted 75 ash trees growing in city boulevards, not including city parks. The survey will be updated by Rice and public works director Matt Proctor to see if those trees are still there.

Letters will go out soon to owners of ash trees situated on city right-of-way between the sidewalk and curb.

"A number of the trees we're going to start taking down - the smaller trees first," Rice said.

The city will remove ash trees in the right-of-way at no cost and return six months to a year later to grind the stump, fill with black dirt and plant grass seed, according to the letter.

A major issue for the city is how to monitor chemical treatment for the insects. The city tree board wants to track which trees are being treated and how.

Tree owners or tree companies likely will have to get a permit from the city to treat an ash tree by the direct trunk injection method, which must be done every two years for the life of the tree. The treatment must be done by a licensed commercial pesticide applicator. The city also would set the season for effective treatments, such as April 15 to Aug. 1.

Rice recommended the city not allow over-the-counter soil drench or basal spray methods of treatment because of environmental concerns and the possibility of the chemicals moving to unintended areas such as gardens.

The five-member tree board will return to the council with a permit plan for consideration. The board already has removed ash trees from the list of preferred trees in the city.

Rice said he attended training sessions on how to spot emerald ash borers. If he finds any, a state entomologist or forester would confirm the sighting. The invasive pests have been found as close as Cedar County in Iowa. The entire eastern portion of Iowa, including Clinton County, is under an EAB quarantine, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

"This is a problem we're going to deal with for 10-15 years," Rice said. "It's never going to go away."

Rice said he received about 30 calls from residents wondering what to do about their ash trees last week after media reports about how area cities are dealing with the pest in eastern Iowa and western Illinois. He said most cities are taking down or treating ash trees.

He said Lincoln Park has four large ash trees that were donated to the city and may be worth trying to save, but there are too many at Westbrook Park to treat. It's not known how many ash trees may be resistant to the bugs.

For many of the council members and those in the audience, the discussion was reminiscent of the Dutch elm disease outbreak about 50 years ago. Some trees still survive, including four "champion-size elm trees" at Westbrook, Rice said.

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