Fittest loser
Article updated: 2/20/2012 5:47 AM

Schaumburg concedes $9 million to ash borer

Ash trees line Syracuse Lane in Schaumburg, which village officials label “ground zero” in their fight to contain the emerald ash borer.

Ash trees line Syracuse Lane in Schaumburg, which village officials label "ground zero" in their fight to contain the emerald ash borer.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

The larvae of the emerald ash borer.

The larvae of the emerald ash borer.

 

Daily Herald file photo

The emerald ash borer gets under the bark of an ash tree and over time forms these curvy lines, called a gallery. When several of these galleries connect, they keep the tree from producing sap and the tree slowly begins to die.

The emerald ash borer gets under the bark of an ash tree and over time forms these curvy lines, called a gallery. When several of these galleries connect, they keep the tree from producing sap and the tree slowly begins to die.

 

Daily Herald file photo

Endangered ash trees line Syracuse Lane in Schaumburg.

Endangered ash trees line Syracuse Lane in Schaumburg.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

An adult emerald ash borer.

An adult emerald ash borer.

 

Daily Herald file photo

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Some of Schaumburg's smallest residents, ash borers, are proving disproportionately costly in the village services they're generating.

Schaumburg is embarking on a 10-year, $9 million program to replace thousands of its ash trees with a variety of species immune to the ravages of the emerald ash borer.

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The early years will be spent mostly removing dead or dying trees and using insecticides to slow the ash borer's spread. It won't be until most ash trees are gone -- probably about five years from now -- that funds currently being spent to remove the trees will be redirected to replace them.

"There's going to be a lot of trees missing," Schaumburg Village Manager Ken Fritz said. "Hopefully we'll be able to start reforestation earlier."

That hope rests upon the lingering uncertainty of the pace and annual cost of the ash borer's destructiveness. But in 10 years, the village expects to have a tree population that no longer can be devastated by one disease.

The dramatic plan means Schaumburg has conceded that the wood-burrowing green insect is essentially unstoppable. And while officials will try to save about 500 of the biggest ash trees by using expensive chemical injections, thousands of parkway trees will be removed, leaving residential parkways temporarily barren.

As subdivisions were built in the 1960s and '70s, the ash was a very popular tree for parkways because the trees provided an almost ideal combination of durability and quick growth, said Engineering and Public Works Director Steve Weinstock. And unlike the elm, then, they had no known predator.

Residents will be given the option to participate in a 50/50 cost-sharing program with the village to replant their parkway trees during years in which the village's own reforestation efforts are suspended.

During this first year of the 10-year plan, the village expects to spend $1.5 million, which includes $470,000 to remove 1,863 damaged trees. The village also will begin treating with a powerful insecticide 524 "high value" ash trees that are 20 inches or more in diameter. This needs to be done only every other year, but this year's cost alone is $128,000.

Though expensive, the measure might be enough to see many of these very valuable trees through the rest of their natural lives, Fritz said.

The village will use a lesser insecticide to slow the damage to 6,316 smaller trees before they eventually fall to the ash borer.

Schaumburg also will hire two seasonal interns to help with the management plan at a total cost of $25,720.

Of the $1.5 million, $700,000 already was budgeted in the capital improvement plan and the other $800,000 will come from last year's surplus.

Because of public resistance to removing trees that still look healthy but aren't, the new policy is to not take down a tree until at least 50 percent of its canopy has been lost, Weinstock said.

There should be no question that the trees being removed are dead. And their removal is essential from a safety standpoint due to their lack of structural soundness, Fritz said.

When reforestation does begin, Schaumburg will use a variety of different species so that no single type of tree represents more than 7 percent of the village's entire population.

The village is debating whether to use trees 1.5 inches or 2.5 inches in diameter for the future reforestation. The cost difference is an estimated $1.4 million versus $3.9 million to reforest the entire village.

Weinstock said the smaller trees are not only less costly but more resilient to transplanting and start to grow more quickly. The only disadvantage is they're smaller, and don't contribute to the tree canopy quite as quickly, he said.

The new attempt at species diversity is designed to avoid a repeat of the overall devastation caused first by Dutch elm disease and now by the emerald ash borer, he said.

Village trustees are expected to vote to approve the plan Feb. 28.

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