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Emerald Ash Borer now considered widespread in Cedar Rapids

The remains of an ash tree in a yard in northwest Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, June 27, 2018.  The city now considers Emerald Ash Borer disease "widespread" throughout the city. (Dave Franzman/KCRG-TV9)
The remains of an ash tree in a yard in northwest Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. The city now considers Emerald Ash Borer disease "widespread" throughout the city. (Dave Franzman/KCRG-TV9)(KCRG)
Published: Jun. 27, 2018 at 5:59 PM CDT
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The Cedar Rapids forestry department now considers the Emerald Ash Borer “widespread” throughout the city. And that means some changes in the ongoing battle against the destructive beetle.

For one, the city will shift more manpower to ash tree removal in the coming months to get rid of diseased and dying trees. And it’s a warning to homeowners with ash trees the time is coming to decide on either treatment to try to preserve the tree or removal.

Cedar Rapids Forestry crews concentrated in certain infested parts of the city this spring to try to keep the EAB from spreading to other neighborhoods.

But it was too late.

Todd Fagan, city arborist, said the city is removing about 150 to 200 vulnerable trees a year under the current program. Many were vulnerable but not infected trees and the idea was to prevent the insect from spreading as quickly.

But now that the infestation is widespread, more trees with the disease will come down every year and there will be a need for more workers.

“The idea is to potentially triple our workforce or close to it so we can have 10 or 11 groups out dealing with the tree issues versus the three to four we have now,” Fagan said.

Fagan says right now that won’t dramatically impact the city budget because forestry will “borrow” those extra workers from other city departments during slower times of the year.

It would mean pushing back some other city work to concentrate on tree removal.

Homeowners are responsible for ash trees on their own property.

Mark Powers has two ash trees and he’s had a tree service look for signs of ash borers before.

With a dead ash tree in a neighbor’s yard, he’ll be calling again.

“My inclination is to save. But if it’s going broad across the city we’ll probably be one of those who cuts them down,” he said.

Tree service companies say chemicals to fight borers can be applied on trees through October. Calls have gone up as the city has stepped up tree removal on public property.

The city arborist says at one time the cost of fighting the Emerald Ash Borer, and removing thousands of damaged trees from public property, was estimated at $14-15-million dollars.

That estimate has dropped to about $8-10-million dollars over 20 years because a survey found fewer ash trees than originally thought. But the number is still slightly more than 7,000.

The city will be hosting a workshop on dealing with Emerald Ash Borer on Tuesday, July 10th from 6:30-8:30pm in Time Check Hall at the City Services Center, 500 15th Ave. S.W.

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