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Article updated: 11/5/2013 5:35 AM

Wheaton opts to remove 5,512 ash trees

The emerald ash borer has infected 85 percent of the city's 5,512 ash trees.

The emerald ash borer has infected 85 percent of the city's 5,512 ash trees.

 

courtesy of University of Illinois entomology Prof

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As the old saying goes, if you can't beat them, chop their home down.

That's exactly the plan of attack Wheaton officials have chosen to take when it comes to dealing with the devastating emerald ash borer.

City council members Monday night accepted a $3.2 million plan that calls for the removal of all 5,512 ash trees by April 2017 and a reforestation plan to replace as many as 5,291 trees for an additional $1.3 million.

More than 1,000 ash trees have already been removed, and the first phase of the plan calls for another 728 to be removed by May.

"I would suspect they're all going to be gone in the next four or five years," said Kevin Maloney, Wheaton's forestry superintendent.

According to the plan prepared by Graf Tree Care, the remaining 5,512 ash trees make up one quarter of the city's tree population. And 85 percent of those 5,512 ash trees show signs of emerald ash borer damage.

According to the report, 2,716 of the ash trees have moderate damage and Maloney said they are deteriorating quickly.

"I suspect the trees in the moderate (damage) condition now, within two years, will be in severe condition," he said. "They deteriorate pretty rapidly, and if we have adverse weather conditions, that can accelerate the process."

Only 331 ash trees were deemed worth treating, but city officials opted against treating any trees.

"The chemical is proven, but is it 100 percent effective in every tree? No. It's not," Maloney said.

Moving forward, the city has also placed a moratorium on planting maple trees and expanded the species allowed to be planted from nine to 15.

The beetle has destroyed millions of ash trees since being discovered in North America in 2002 in southeast Michigan. In Illinois, the emerald ash borer was first found in June 2006 in a subdivision near Lily Lake in Kane County.

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