Superior's ash borer infestation expands beyond North EndOrange paint on the trunks of ash trees tells the story: The North End isn’t the only neighborhood in Superior where the emerald ash borer has been found.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Orange paint on the trunks of ash trees tells the story: The North End isn’t the only neighborhood in Superior where the emerald ash borer has been found.
City forester Mary Morgan says there seem be a number of hot spots in the city where the metallic-green, half-inch beetle’s path of destruction is visible.
Crews have been out assessing the condition of ash trees in other areas. The problem had spread at least as far south as North 21st Street, they discovered last week.
A medium ash tree in good condition offers a value of $1,470 annually.
“That isn’t an amount that is in any account at City Hall,” Morgan said. “But the trees have a value.”
Each medium-size tree removes about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and 4.3 pounds of pollutants.
“The thing that really caught my eye is a medium tree takes up 5,380 gallons of water,” Morgan said. “That’s not a one-time thing. That’s every year.”
“Superior’s ash trees are worth a whopping $3.9 million” in value, Morgan said.
So far, Superior has lost almost $100,000 in annual value in terms of the trees taken down since emerald ash borers were discovered almost a month ago.
The city has about 3,000 ash trees on city boulevards, in parks and at the Nemadji Golf Course. Morgan said there could be three to four times that many ash trees on private, residential property in the city based on a training session she attended.
The city will be unable to assess or take down trees on private property. “We have our hands full with ash in the public right of way,” Morgan said.
Morgan hopes that once research into the problem is completed, the council will consider establishing a waste wood site where the city could process the trees for property owners.
The city’s Tree Board plans to hold public information sessions once decisions are made.
City officials are exploring options and the potential costs of those options.
Based on an estimate of $10 per diameter-inch to treat, Morgan said the cost of treating the city’s ash trees could be about $324,000. That’s a worst-case scenario, Morgan said. She said she learned a recent bid in Kansas City to treat 4,500 ash trees there came in at about $5.25 per diameter-inch.
The cost of removing the trees — based on a 2008 estimate — could be about $2.2 million to remove the city’s ash and replace them with a different species of tree.
The cost of removing a tree through contract prices — estimated at $340 per tree — seems inflated, said Rick Hanson of Rick’s Tree and Stump Service in Duluth.
“It’s happy news if it’s inflated,” Morgan said.
None of the costs the city faces have been budgeted. Until last month’s discovery, the northernmost county in western Wisconsin where the beetle was found was Trempealeau.
“We’ve been trying to get the word out that the problem is coming; even so, it’s such a complicated problem, you can’t prepare for it until it arrives,” Morgan said.
Initially, Morgan said her concern was having thousands of trees in public rights of way that were a danger to property and residents. However, until the council establishes the removal criteria, the city is cutting only ash trees that are exhibiting crown dieback of 50 percent or more or have splits in the bark and are leaning.
So far, 65 trees were cut down in North End where the beetle was first discovered, Morgan said last week, but the city hasn’t been “bombarded” with calls from residents.
“I think when the bucket-truck and chainsaws show up, we might have more feedback,” Morgan said. “I think our friends in North End were pretty shocked by what happened in that area. And when I spoke with three of them … they were very sad.”