The Des Moines Register
Ash trees infested with Emerald Ash Borers on private property are the responsibility of the property owner, area experts explain how to spot ash borers and what steps to take to protect your trees during a news conference on April 16, 2015. Kelsey Kremer/The Register
The emerald ash borer is here, and its destruction will be widespread and costly — for cities, residents and the state.
The expected loss of millions of ash trees across Iowa will cost $2.5 billion over the next two decades in higher energy expenses from lost shade, rising stormwater retention costs and reduced property values, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources estimates.
Altogether, about 3 million ash trees are scattered across cities in Iowa and another 52 million ashes are in rural woodland areas.
“Most people don’t really think about the value of their trees until they’re gone,” said John Griffiths, an arborist at Wright Outdoor Solutions in West Des Moines. He was among state and local experts who gathered Thursday at Gray’s Lake to talk about the invasion of the emerald beetle into central Iowa.
What you need to know about the emerald ash borer
Ash borer arrives in Dallas County
As ash borer spreads, towns sacrifice canopy
Shots may save WDM trees from ash borer
Preventing the emerald ash borer’s spread
The tree-killing pest was discovered in the southeast corner of Dallas County, officials reported this week. And even though the emerald ash borer hasn’t been found in Polk County, “it’s safe to presume it’s likely already here,” Jonathan Gano, Des Moines public works director, said Thursday.
The insect, which is native to Asia and eastern Russia, has been confirmed in 21 counties across Iowa. And it has Des Moines and other metro area officials scrambling to treat and remove ash trees before the bugs overrun the metro area.
Todd Voss and Mike Kintner, of the Iowa DepartmentTodd Voss and Mike Kintner, of the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship pulls back the bark of an ash tree branch to point out emerald ash borer galleries during a news conference announcing the confirmation of the ash borer being found in Dallas County on Thursday, April 16, 2015 held at Gray’s Lake.
Todd Voss and Mike Kintner, of the Iowa Department Emerald ash borer galleries in an ash tree branch during An emerald ash borer larvae was found under the bark Laura Jesse, Iowa State University extension entomologist Craig Hertel talks to Mike Kintner, Iowa Department Mike Kintner, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Mike Kintner, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land An emerald ash borer larvae was found under the bark Emerald ash borer galleries in an ash tree branch during Mike Kintner, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Mike Kintner, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Mike Kintner, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Mike Kintner, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Mike Kintner, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Emerald ash borer galleries in an ash tree branch during An Emerald ash borer and ash borer larvae are placed Emerald ash borer identification guides were available Jonathan Gano, public works director for the city of Jonathan Gano, public works director for the city of Donald Lewis, Professor and Extension Entomologist
Gano said the city is pushing ahead with its $10 million, 10-year plan to remove and treat ash trees. The city will remove about 800 trees this fiscal year and will begin treating 2,500 trees in May.
Widespread devastation anticipated
Nearly all of Des Moines’ neighborhoods will get hit, based on a citywide inventory.
The emerald ash borer will be devastating to some neighborhoods, wiping out trees that shade homes and yards, Griffiths said. It will be especially tough for people who have an emotional connection to the trees.
“They tell me stories about planting them when their child was born, or their mother or father died,” he said. “It’s where they played or swung on a swing.”
At least 80 percent of the trees that line the streets of Brook Run neighborhood in northeast Des Moines are ashes. City officials marked more than 200 of them last year for removal, which started in the fall.
“For one reason or another a whole bunch of ash trees were planted, and now it’s almost like we’re taking a step back to the beginning of the neighborhood with all these tiny trees,” said Tim Stiles, president of the Brook Run Neighborhood Association.
Stiles said other varieties of trees will be planted this year. “People are disappointed. We were supposed to have a mix (of trees) so that this wouldn’t happen.”
Big cost to homeowners
A big part of the financial burden of the emerald ash borer epidemic will fall to homeowners and businesses, officials said.
In Des Moines, for example, between 100,000 to 120,000 ash trees lie on private property. About 47,000 ash trees sit on public property.
Gano, the Des Moines public works director, said it’s less costly for landowners to treat ash trees than to let them die and have them removed.
Treatment could cost a couple hundred dollars every two years, depending on the tree’s size.
Removing a tree, though, can cost between $800 and $1,200, said Gano and others.
The first step for homeowners is to determine if the tree is healthy enough to save, he said.
Waiting can cost homeowners considerably more as the tree becomes brittle and more dangerous to fell. “The sooner these trees come down, the better it will be for the pocketbook,” Gano said.
Beginning in July, Des Moines will remove another 800 to 1,000 trees. Replacing them is part of the city’s regular forestation plan. To get on that list, Des Moines residents need to request that the city replace lost ash trees, Gano said.
The emerald ash borer has now been identified in 21 Iowa counties. (Photo: DNR/Special to the Register)
Without treatment, ash trees will die.
“It’s not 100 percent mortality, but it’s knocking on the door of 100 percent,” said Griffiths, the Wright Outdoor Solutions arborist.
He said the West Des Moines business received about 100 calls about the pest Thursday. Before the discovery of the emerald ash borer in central Iowa, the company received a couple of calls a day.
“It’s almost overwhelming,” Griffiths said. The company has added workers to treat trees and expects to hire more.
Impact expected to vary
Some communities that are especially heavily wooded, such as Johnston, could feel a real blow.
About 18 percent of the trees in Johnston’s public spaces are ashes, according to city officials. The density in several neighborhoods is even higher, with 2,000 ash trees on city property and hundreds more on private property.
Some younger, neighboring cities may have fewer ash trees to treat or remove.
West Des Moines has roughly 1,150 ash trees on city property, and Waukee has less than 300, say city officials.
The emerald ash borer’s confirmed arrival was less than 100 yards from the West Des Moines city border and not much farther from Waukee, said John Olds, West Des Moines’ urban forestry supervisor.
Olds said the incident this week doesn’t change the city’s treatment plans.
“We were just moving right along like it was here,” Olds said, noting the close threat with sightings in Jasper and Story counties.
A preserved specimen of the emerald ash borer liesA preserved specimen of the emerald ash borer lies on top of a piece of bark one of the insects has inhabited, leaving grooves on the inside layer. (Photo: MARY CHIND/THE REGISTER)
A preserved specimen of the emerald ash borer lies The inside layer from a piece of ash bark shows the A preserved specimen of the emerald ash borer lies des.alt0101ashborerhole.jpg des.alt0101ashborer.jpg Cities across the country are looking for ways to combat Emerald Ash borer Tracks from emerald ash borers left in a black ash
West Des Moines allocated $240,000 to treat and remove ash trees this fiscal year and slightly less for the coming year. Waukee only recently completed an ash-tree inventory and plans to implement an emerald ash borer management plan this spring.
So far, Burlington and Waterloo have been hit the hardest by the emerald ash borer’s march across the state, said Mike Kintner, an Iowa Department of Agriculture employee who is coordinating the state’s response to the emerald ash borer.
Millions of trees lost nationally
Nationally, the pest has destroyed an estimated 50 million to 100 million ash trees.
The driving force behind public decisions, said Kintner, is a desire to protect residents and property from infected trees. They can die within two years.
“It can be a huge liability,” he said. “Prioritizing trees is generally what we’ve seen cities do.”
Todd Derifield, Waterloo’s city forester, said the city has removed about 700 ash trees since the insect was discovered a year ago. Typically, it removes about 150 trees annually.
Derifield said he worries about keeping pace with the beetle’s destruction.
“I don’t know how fast those little critters are going to work,” he said. “I’m concerned we may reach a point at some time where the trees are dying faster than we can remove them.”
To find out how your neighborhood will be affected, go to: maps.dmgov.org/EXTmapcenter/maps/AshTreeNeighborhoodMapBook.pdf.
Des Moines’ plan
Des Moines plans to focus on about 13,000 “high impact” ash trees near streets, buildings, parking lots and parks that pose a liability to the public and to property.
About 7,200 ash trees would be removed under the plan, and another 5,800 would be treated with a special chemical to kill the invasive beetle.
The remaining 34,000 ash trees are in natural areas and will be left to die and fall on their own.
Iowa is under a statewide quarantine that restricts the movement of hardwood firewood, ash logs, wood chips and ash tree nurseries. The state recommends that Iowans use firewood from local sources to restrict the spread of the pest.