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Onondaga County plans to spend $15 million to combat Emerald Ash Borer

Ryan Delaney
Arborist Lori Brockelbank injects insecticide into an ash tree. (file photo)

Onondaga County expects to spend more than $15 million over the next 25 years to deal with the Emerald Ash Borer infestation. The plan targets almost 47,000 ash trees on county land that pose a danger if they fall over.

The invasive bug was discovered in Onondaga County last summer, and if left alone can kill an ash tree in two to seven years. County Environmental Director David Coburn says the county is proposing an ash tree management strategy that is a balanced approach.

“It’s a combination of preemptive removal before we have ash tree mortality," Coburn said. "Preservation of those trees that provide a great deal of value to the community. Doing some tree replacement.”

The whole thing will cost the county plenty of money, but Coburn says it can’t be helped.

“All of these ash trees are going to die, just as the Dutch Elm Disease killed all the elm trees," Coburn explained. "And so doing nothing is not an option, and at this point whatever the price tag is, is something communities are going to have to pay.”

The trees the county is targeting are those in areas where they would pose a danger when they fall over. Most of them are along roads, others are near trails in parks and sidewalks.

Coburn proposes chopping down 95 percent of the trees, and preserving about 2,300 others using a pesticide management process. He points specifically to the stand of ash in Willow Bay in Onondaga Lake Park that should be spared. He would like to get started on it as soon as possible.

"If we wait too long before we start attempting to preserve the trees with pesticide, that option will disappear, and we’ll be faced with a situation where we’ll have to take the trees down before they start falling down,” he explained.

Coburn says the county can’t really wait on this, noting researchers have found extensive damage in trees already.

“They took a tree down last year that had about 350 larvae inside the tree, and about 250 adult exit holes," Coburn said. "And half of those adults are females that will lay 100 eggs in adjoining trees, so you can see how rapidly the population can explode in a particular area.”

One in nine trees in Onondaga County is an ash tree. Lawmakers will consider the proposed management strategy at their July meeting.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.