Fairfield teaches other cities about ash borer
Fairfield City Council member Michael Halley and Fairfield Sustainability Coordinator Scott Timm were invited by Iowa Department of Natural Resources to attend a conference in Burlington Thursday to share their expertise.
“We were invited to speak to a group of more than 100 arborists, city officials and city foresters about Fairfield’s Urban Tree Plan,” said Halley. “The DNR likes how Fairfield is conducting an inventory of trees and developing an urban tree management plan” since discovering trees infested with the emerald ash borer.
“Some communities haven’t discovered infestations yet,” said Halley. “It’s best to get a jump on this before it gets as far along as our infestation is. We are one of four Iowa communities identified with the emerald ash borer.”
Halley said he learned Thursday that his original thought that the EAB infestation spreads across terrain systematically is incorrect.
“I thought it worked its way to us from Burlington and every where in between also was infested,” he said.
“But Fairfield is more like an island at this point, places in between are not seeing an infestation,” said Halley. “It’s almost certain the ash borer was carried in on firewood brought over from Burlington. That’s why quarantines are so important.
“And our infestation was discovered accidentally. When the oak trees in Chautauqua Park were being inspected for oak wilt, one of the arborists noticed an ash tree across the road looked sick and inspected it and found ash borer infestation.”
Thursday’s workshop in Burlington included field learning to identify infested ash trees and how to look for signs of the larvae.
“We know Fairfield is already infested,” said Halley. “But other communities inside and outside the DNR quarantine zone need to continue to check for infestations.
“It’s important to remember EAB spreads exponentially. The first year, it may be 10 trees, by the second year, it will be 100,” said Halley.
Fairfield has formed an Arbor Committee, which is meeting at 3:30 p.m. Monday in the county Extension Office at Jefferson County Fairgrounds. The meeting is open to the public.
“We’re going to have a lot of ash wood eventually,” said Halley.
The city will publish a plan of how to get rid of ash trees, which are very common in the area.
“If the outer bark and layers are stripped, the wood can be used for woodworking and we’ve discussed providing this type of wood to woodworking classes,” said Halley. “And infested ash wood can be used for firewood, it just can’t be transported out of the quarantine zone. And if it’s finely chipped, to a one-inch size or smaller in all directions, it can be used for mulch.
“But at some point, we’re going to have more ash wood than we can handle,” Halley said. “We’ve discussed using a plan to haul the wood to Muscatine as it’s cut down. Muscatine is inside the quarantine, and it has a power plant that chips the wood and blends it with coal to send to universities for use in heating systems. We wouldn’t need to chip the wood, just haul it to Muscatine.”
Cutting down ash trees is one way to rid the area of emerald ash borer disease. Another way is chemical insecticide, which Halley says is not recommended. Chemical dousing is a process that needs to continue throughout the life of the tree to save it from dying from emerald ash borer disease.
“The soil can become drenched with the insecticide and there are regulations as to how much can be in the soil,” he said. “Property owners could be fined if too much is used.
“It looks like Burlington will most likely ban the use of soil drenching insecticides within city limits to protect the local watershed,” said Halley. “They will still allow insecticidal injections.
“I will recommend the Fairfield City Council include similar language in our new tree ordinance, which is being developed, and I hope is ready early next year,” he said. “The ordinance will be designed to protect trees in the city right of way and ensure that appropriate species are planted as replacements, such as shorter trees under power lines.
“It’s sad we’ll likely loose almost all of our ash trees in the next eight to 10 years,” said Halley. “The silver lining is Fairfield is forced to create a comprehensive plan to guide the city’s tree policy for years to come.”