ONALASKA, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Last December, the emerald ash borer was discovered in Onalaska. The borer's appearance means some big changes are on the way for residents.
"Just the sheer extent of the number of trees that will be affected by the Emerald Ash Borer will be a challenge in the years ahead," said Brea Grace, Land Use and Development Director with the City of Onalaska. "Overall ash trees are about 28% of the total tree population of city owned trees, and that's not including any ash trees on private property."
On Tuesday, the City of Onalaska is hosting an open house to gather public feedback on the different management options.
"As the emerald ash borer progresses in it's infection of the trees, what we'll see is trees dying in the years ahead which may present a public safety issue," said Grace. "We don't want any boulevard trees to be coming down in wind storms. So we need to be proactive about how we're going to be dealing with these trees that are going to be dying."
One of the management options includes removing ash trees and replacing them with other trees. Another option would be to chemically treat the ash population to extend their life and prevent infection. Or likely a combination approach, according to Grace. But there's no easy answer.
"Some of the things that residents should take into account as we're looking at updating the management plan is cost," said Grace. "There will be a significant cost to tree removal and tree treatment."
Grace said that preliminary cost estimates for removal and treatment are between a quarter and a half million dollars. Based on what the public says on Tuesday, the city will put together a management plan and start figuring out how to fit it in the budget. They hope to have the management plan completed by late spring.
The open house will be from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11th at the Onalaska City Hall. The City of Onalaska will be hosting another event at the end of March aimed at treating and removing ash trees on private property.
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