OWATONNA — It’s all hands on deck for Owatonna has city personnel discuss the threat to the city’s many, many ash trees.
Since the confirmation of emerald ash borer — or EAB — in Medford put Steele County on quarantine earlier this month, the Owatonna city staff has been looking proactively into their options to protect the trees.
“We have ash trees in all of our parks,” said Troy Klecker, the interim parks and recreation director for Owatonna. “There aren’t any trees that we have noticed that have been affected by EAB to our knowledge up to this point, but we’re making a plan to address the threat.”
Klecker stated that the first step in protecting Owatonna’s ash trees will be conducting an inventory, something that has never been down in the city parks before now. In recent years, however, an inventory along city boulevards was taken, totaling 35% of those trees being ash.
“Honestly we were preparing for when this would happen,” said Kyle Skov, the city engineer. “It’s been in Dodge County just to the east of us for some time now.”
During a meeting to address the threat that is EAB, Klecker stated that there are some grant dollars through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that will assist in the inventory process. Once that step is complete, mediation efforts will be taken into consideration.
“It is actually more cost-effective to treat the trees than it is to cut them down,” Klecker said. “For the most part we would want to treat as many trees as we can, though not all the trees may be worth treating.”
Klecker said that the larger trees in the parks and along the boulevards will likely be prioritized for saving, though the city will seriously be looking into saving as many as possible. He added that the smaller trees would be the ones considered for removal largely due to the price.
“Taking out a tree is expensive from staff time to the equipment needed,” he explained. “Most of our trees in our parks I think we’re going to want to treat, but we’ll look at them all.”
Some examples Klecker shared of ash trees that could potentially be removed included ones that are damaged, those close to overhead lines, or if there are a number of ash trees close together that would still provide plenty of canopy cover if just one or two were removed.
“It is definitely part of the plan to plant new trees, especially if there is an area that has a number of ash trees,” he added, stating that each tree removed will likely be replaced with a new tree. “Proactively I think we’re going to want to plant some trees in those areas even before any may be removed.”
According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, it can take anywhere from two to five years for a tree to die once it has become infested with EAB. The larvae of the emerald ash borers wreak havoc on green, white, and black ash trees by tunneling under the bark and feeding on the part of the tree that moves nutrients up and down the trunk.
There are four types of EAB treatment options: soil injection, trunk injection, bark spray, and canopy spray – all types of insecticides. The most common treatment is the trunk injection, which targets the larvae tunneling in the tree and stops the most destructive phase of the insect. According to the University of Minnesota Extension Office, if 30% of the tree or less is affected by the infestation, an ash tree is still viable for treatment.
“Treatment doesn’t guarantee that the tree will be saved,” Klecker noted. “If we happen to lose a tree or a few, then the trees that we’ve have already planted with that park should be at least a good size.”
While the finer details will have to be worked out once an inventory of ash trees on city property is complete, Klecker said that the discovery in Medford set off a chain reaction that prompted the City to get things in order to fight back against the invasive insect.
Klecker stated that representatives from the city will attend the open house on Tuesday, Oct. 1, regarding the discovery of emerald ash borer in the county, which members of the public are also invited to attend. The open house will be held in the board room at the Steele County Administration Building from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Those attending the open house will have an opportunity to learn more about EAB and local options to deal with the insect and hear how residents can limit the spread of the bug. Experts will be available to answer questions.
Comments can be made at the open house or by contacting Kimberly Thielen Cremers with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The public will also have an opportunity to provide input on the proposal to add Steele County to the state formal quarantine. The MDA will take comments on the proposed formal quarantine through Oct. 25 and proposes to adopt the quarantine on Nov. 1. The quarantine limits the movement of ash trees and limbs, and hard hardwood firewood out of the country. The proposed quarantine language can be found at mda.state.mn.us/eab.
People are always welcome to report any potential infestation or send in pictures of their own ash trees if they believe they may be damaged to email@example.com.