River Hills taking measures to pre-empt emerald ash borer

Published on: 12/4/2012

River Hills - In an effort to squash the advance of the emerald ash borer, public works employees will be removing ash trees from public land, and village officials are putting together information for residents on options for treating or removing their own ash trees.

Adult emerald ash borers feed on the leaves of ash trees and lay eggs on the trunks. Larvae bore through the bark of the trees, develop in the outer sapwood, and eventually chew their way back out as adults to begin the cycle anew.

EAB was first detected in the United States in 2002, and has since spread to multiple states and 11 Wisconsin counties, including Milwaukee. Brown Deer detected its first infested tree in August.

To help keep EAB out of River Hills, the Department of Public Works will be focusing on ash trees throughout the village in its annual maintenance program - during which 200 to 400 trees are taken down annually, according to DPW Superintendent Kurt Frederickson.

"If you have a choice, why not take an ash, because it's going to spread," Village Manager Christopher Lear said.

Frederickson said that similar programs aren't new to the village, having worked on trees infected with Dutch elm disease.

"We're stepping up our removal of weakened and dying trees," Frederickson said.

He encourages residents to take an inventory of ash trees on their properties and, given the severity of EAB infestations, decide which ones they want to save.

"Trees they want to keep on their property should be treated right away," Frederickson said.

Village officials will be putting together and vetting a list of contractors who specialize in ash treatment and tree removal, said Committee on the Environment Chair Larry Boyer, which they hope to distribute in the spring via mailer, hard copy at Village Hall, and the village website.

Boyer, too, anticipates that EAB will wipe out a considerable share of ash trees in the village.

"People don't understand how bad it is," he said. "(Treatment) is really and truly for the specimen trees."

When removing trees, residents can put them out for removal by the village, so long as they follow the rules, Frederickson said. The village ordinance says that piles may be up to six feet by six feet by 20 feet, and are picked up once a month between April and November.

"If it gets larger than that, and becomes an inordinate amount of time to pick up, we're supposed to charge," Frederickson said. He added that contractors are supposed to remove anything they cut down as well.