The notorious emerald ash borer (EAB) is something OPPD officials continue monitoring for a number of reasons.
Mike Norris, a utility forester at OPPD and a member of the EAB Task Force, said OPPD continues surveying its 13-county, 5,000-square-mile service territory to determine how many ash trees could pose a threat to OPPD’s infrastructure. Trees that are attacked by the bug become weak and could fall into power lines.
“The first couple of years the impact is pretty low,” Norris said. “But then it increases exponentially. Once the tree dies, it can fall over without any warning, and they are very dangerous to climb.”
The bugs create tunnels under the bark of the ash tree in the sap wood, damaging the tree’s vascular tissue and killing it rapidly, Norris said. And the bugs don’t discriminate, attacking healthy and older, declining trees equally.
There are measures that can be taken to help protect the trees. Trunk injections applied early in the year can help protect healthy trees. The insecticide must be applied every few years. Other options are soil drenching, though that method, while less expensive, has some drawbacks, including possible harm to some desired insects like bees, plus it is less effective. Drenching must be done every year and should be done within the next few weeks otherwise it won’t have time to distribute enough.
Norris recommends anyone who has ash trees consult with a tree professional. The trees are very popular, making up about 27 percent of the tree population in Nebraska cities and towns, while only accounting for about nine percent of the state’s total tree population.
“They are a popular tree to plant,” he said. “They are pretty, they grow fast, and up until now, were fairly hearty.”
Statewide, there are about 44 million ash trees. Estimates from the Nebraska Forestry Service put the price tag on costs related to the removal, disposal and replacement of the trees across the state at more than $961 million.
There is a quarantine for ash trees for Douglas, Sarpy, Cass, Washington and Dodge counties to try and prevent the spread of the EAB to other areas. Norris warns people from transporting ash wood for use in bonfires or campfires. OPPD contracts two companies for tree trimming and removal and those companies properly dispose the ash debris within the quarantine area before traveling to other areas.
More information about EAB and how to protect trees can be found on the Nebraska Forest Service’s website.