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July 31, 2013

Oneonta braces for invasive beetle

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Considering the emerald ash borer, the city of Oneonta is en garde.

A working group has been discussing the encroaching presence of the insect and reviewing a proposal to address its arrival and the fate of the city’s ash trees. The 10-year draft plan outlines treatment or disposal of infested trees, replacement options and other factors and would cost about $256,100.

The first local sighting of an emerald ash borer was in Unadilla in May. As of July, no emerald ash borer has been seen in the city, officials said.

“We can’t stop it from coming,” Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said Monday. “It probably is here.”

The question before the city is how to mitigate the impact, Miller said.

The emerald ash borer, an Asian beetle, was first found in the United States in Michigan in 2002 and has since caused the destruction of more than 50 million ash trees, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Adults are about 3/8 to 5/8 of an inch long with metallic green wing covers and a coppery red or purple abdomen.

Signs of tree infection include canopy loss and the yellowing and browning of leaves, the DEC said, and most trees die within two to four years of becoming infested.

Otsego, Delaware, Chenango and Schoharie counties are among at least 15 counties under quarantine restrictions for handling the emerald ash borer and its larvae set by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, urged for additional funding to help research, control and eradicate the emerald ash borer.

The pest was first reported seen in New York state in 2009. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Gillibrand asked for resources to control the invasive species and protect New York’s forests, according to a media release.

“The most recent news that Otsego and Delaware Counties have been added to the list of counties in New York State does not give me confidence that the spread of this harmful insect will be subsiding any time soon,” she wrote.

Miller said the city’s next step is to spend $25,000 to hire an arborist to complete an inventory of ash trees in the city.

About 125 ash trees in the city are the responsibility of the municipality, according to a draft plan. The quantity of ash trees in the watershed, the Susquehanna Greenway and at the airport is unknown.

In June, Miller asked George Palladino, a member of the city’s Environmental Board to serve as special adviser on the ash borer issue. Palladino wrote the draft plan that is pending before Common Council committees. 

The draft plan addresses concerns from treatment of diseased trees on city property and publicizing the issue among city property owners to disposing of and replacing trees. Miller said the plan is for 10 years but the city will take one year at a time.

James Hawver, senior engineering technician in the city engineering department, said treating a tree would cost less than disposing of a tree because the wood must be quarantined.

Questions now to answer are what to do with the trees, he said.

The average cost of tree removal is $1,000 and stump grinding costs about $300 in addition, the plan said. The cost of insecticide treatment of an ash tree is $10 per diameter inch. “Bare-root” tree replacement would cost about $30, plus $100 for labor and supplies, according to the plan, whereas, a “root-ball” replacement would cost about $250, plus $300 planting costs.